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.