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In an ambiguous ending to a heated debate, Evanston aldermen Monday decided to take no action on a proposal for an intergovernmental agreement to implement a so-called “safe school zone” around Evanston Township High School.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, offered the plan to shelve the proposal — saying that under her reading of the nearly two-year-old safe school zone statute, no agreement between the school district and city was needed to impose it.

The statute, which  was adopted at the behest of school officials in Champaign, ostensibly gives school officials the power to order any person to leave the area around a school — including public streets and sidewalks adjacent to school property — or face arrest for criminal trespass.

It contains exceptions for people having “lawful business” in the area and for people exercising First Amendment rights, although it contains no mechanism for an administrative appeal of a school administrator’s decision that a person is barred from the area.

Some residents living in the area around the school said they feared they would be harassed for just walking down the street or standing outside businesses at the Church and Dodge intersection adjoining the school.

Although school board members pushed for the agreement, aldermen sought more information on how the rules would be applied and several appeared unwilling to adopt the plan as long as neighbors continued to object.

Grover also noted in a draft resolution prepared for Monday’s meeting that the city already has taken many steps to improve security around the school.

It was unclear whether city police — who have used mob action and disorderly conduct statutes to arrest persons accused of disruptive behavior across the street from the school in the past — would attempt to use the safe school zone criminal trespass statute in the future.

“It’s really been a long preocess,” Grover said, “and I regret all the negative stuff that’s come about as a result of it.”

“The school safety personnel and the police are such good people, I think we’re all on the same page with this.”

“I hope the community doesn’t expect that a state statute would create some sort of an impervious force field around our schools that prevents anything from happening,” Grover added, “It’s simply a criminal trespass statute.”

Betty Ester.

But Betty Sue Ester, who lives across Church Street from the school, said that even with the agreement withdrawn, “the damage to the community has already been done, because it had led to the neighborhood being portrayed as a high crime area.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Wow

    Can't belive how many not smart people are in charge or have a position of influence in this city. Alarming really.

  2. “Damage has been Done”

    I am not sure what planet Betty Ester lives on, but lets get real.  The "damage being done" is being done by the criminals she apparently wants to protect. The latest shooting death (Cardereon Priester) in town was just a few weeks ago on Leland right around the corner from the high school.

  3. Once again the City Council

    Once again the City Council of Evanston failed the voters. The safe school pact should have been put in and not dropped. What will the Council say if something occurs that it might have been avoided? Has the Council ever addressed crime issues in Evanston?

    True they have had the Police Chief in for questions. Perhaps the daily crime report should be required reading of the Council and time set aside each week to discuss. I have yeat to hear the Council discuss breakins of homes and garages. In some cases stuff taken can't be removed by someone walking down street and putting in pocket. Trucks are needed.

  4. Disgusted by the cowards on the City Council
    So, City Council, it’s a “no” to the ETHS administrators who asked you to participate in a straightforward proposal to increase safety for our children when they are vulnerable leaving the ETHS building at the end of the day.

    Shame on each member of the City Council. You have demonstrated how short sighted and cowardly you are.

    What was it that made you decide against this proposal?

    Was it that the ETHS administrators requested this action? Can’t make it look like those people know what they are talking about, right?

    Was it that this action would acknowledge (yet again) the dangers that exist in that part of town? Can’t do that — just keep repeating that we have the lakefront, restaurants and cultural institutions — crime, what crime, right?

    Was it that the citizens would have seen you as leaders who are motivated to care about the safey of some of our most vulnerable residents (our precious children who are minors)? I am certain that you don’t want that. You can’t break your record of ignoring crime and safety, as well as your history of ignoring other aspects of the reality of living in this city.

    Let’s face it — you caved to a few noisy complainers, almost all of whom do not even live near the high school. Why are those noisy few more important to you than the safety of children?

    Please examine your motives then please start using clear and logical thought to help improve this city. You don’t appear to know that your action (and inaction) actually does affect people’s behavior. For example, how many families do you suppose will leave Evanston because they feel that their children are not safe outside ETHS — and the City Council is too callous to do anything about it?

    And Ms. Ester, as long as we are talking about ignoring reality, nobody buys that the neighborhood around the ETHS building has been maligned by this discussion.

  5. What a shame!!

    "because it had led to the neighborhood being portrayed as a high crime area."…???  It IS a high crime area!!!!!  "Some residents living in the area around the school said they feared they would be harrassed for just walking down the street or standing outside businesses at the Church and Dodge intersection adjoining the school."…????  Really??  What a shame!!!

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