Joey Hailpern at Wednesday's District 65 Board of Education meeting.

Evanston/Skokie School Board member Joey Hailpern would like the district to opt out of building lockdown drills.

Hailpern told the District 65 board earlier this week that “school shootings should not be normalized like fire drills,” and children should not be practicing such lockdowns “like we expect … [shootings] to happen.”

Doing such drills, Hailpern said, creates the feeling that something “is going to go on today.”

Hailpern is not opposed to many new safety measures, such as the building concierges District 65 plans to hire. Those individuals, one in each school, will monitor building access and watch for trouble. He also said the district’s “Hall Pass” system is a “no-brainer,” because it helps keep track of who is inside a school.

But he also said there is a potential problem with too much new technology, such as a proposed “panic/lockdown button” which teachers could wear.

“We don’t need a system like that,” Hailpern said. There is already a four-digit code which teachers can put into their phones to make a schoolwide announcement. However, Hailpern said many teachers are not even aware of that.

“We need to train people about the four-digit code. We just don’t tell them” now, he added.

The possibility of a “panic/lockdown” button was then removed from the new District 65 safety plan.

The veteran school board member said personal intervention and counseling for troubled youngsters is the best way to head off school incidents before they happen.

“The people who end up doing this wouldn’t be caught by any of the systems we have,” he added.

Hailpern also said that he will draft a resolution for the Illinois State Board of Education, which would stop requiring lockdown drills for schools which have “endured shooting incidents.”

Hailpern noted the recent 4th of July parade shooting in Highland Park community where seven people were killed by a lone gunman.

“We don’t even know the trauma we would inflict to have another drill” in that district, he noted.

And while the shooting was not in Evanston, Hailpern said many Evanstonians have friends or family in Highland Park. One person with such links is Joey Hailpern himself, who used to be a Highland Park school principal, and knows the district well.

District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton said he sympathized with Hailpern’s concerns over lockdown drills, but said there is no choice. It’s the law.

But Hailpern said it would be worth it to skip the drills, law or not.

“What’s the worst thing which could happen?,” he asked. “Getting written up” to a state school adminstrator?

“We have to do what’s best for the kids and families,”Hailpern said, and not having lockdown drills, he indicated, is one way to live up to that best.

But there’s a question if District 65 unilaterally decided not to have a state-required drill, and then some sort of incident happened.

That could, at least in theory, possibly leave the school system open to lawsuits, whether the drill would have helped or not.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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8 Comments

  1. I agree that active shooter drills do more harm than good, especially for children. A culture of fear has had bad consequences – like neighbors calling DCFS when an 8-year old walks the family dog on the block where they live (happened in Wilmette a few years ago).

    If it is the law then we are probably stuck with it, but I understand how the drills are done varies quite a bit between districts. Can the district do them in a way that minimizes the fear factor?

  2. is this a joke. how can he sit there and pretend about caring about traumatizing teachers or anyone after what they have done. He worked in Highland Park? Has he not watched the news in a few weeks?

  3. I always thought Tanyavutti was the worst board member, but Halperin is trying to catch up. First he justified half a million dollars spent on Horton’s private security force by invoking the Ricky Birdsong murder now he is proposing that the district break state law.

  4. Unfortunately this is where the world is that these drills are necessary. Kids today treat lockdown drills like we treated tornado drills when we were kids. Calling them traumatic is pure projection. I hate that we have to do them, but kids don’t think twice.

  5. Just keep the drills. They are law and probably for the right reason. Now stop making an issue about things that aren’t issues and do the hard work you were elected to do. Support our teachers. Repair our school buildings and get all of our kids reading at grade level. THIS is where your energy should be, school board.

  6. Let’s focus on math, Joey. My daughter is now failing and came to the District fairly strong. After a year of having her hand up and the teacher never being able to get to her she is frustrated, insecure and has math anxiety. Let’s look at test scores. Test scores, Joey. The class sizes at Walker are too big for the math mess the District has created.

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