Evanston Township High School Superintendent Marcus Campbell has told teachers and other employees that the district is looking into new security measures that would include weapons detection devices.
However, he also indicated the devices would not be like what is used in the airport, as walk-through equipment could lead to a series of unintendend consequences, ranging from extremely long lines, to sending the wrong message about “who we are as a community.”
Campbell talked about a variety of safety-related issues in a staff meeting on Monday.
ETHS has seen a number of gun-related incidents, including two loaded guns found in school in December 2021, another loaded gun discovered last month, and a June 2022 situation where a youngster brought a loaded weapon to a summer camp at the school.
Each case led to arrests. No shots were fired.
While ETHS officials have opposed weapons detectors in the past, Campbell said that “multiple gun incidents,” both at school and elsewhere in Evanston, have “been in the top of my mind, top of my heart … every single day” since becoming leader of District 202.
Campbel’s first day on the job (after being ETHS principal) was July 5, one day after the mass shooting in Highland Park.
“I’ve never seen such a concentration of violence,” in the area, Campbell said, in the 20-plus years he’s been at ETHS.
Some former or current ETHS teenagers have been either wounded or killed in non-school-related incidents, such as the gas station shooting on Green Bay Road last year, and a case in Chicago where an ETHS student was killed in 2020.
Adding non-airport-style weapons detectors was called for by a citizens group after the December 2021 incident, but district leadership at the time opted against it.
Now, however, the idea, in some form, is back on the table.
Exactly how such technology works was not explained. Campbell said the district is working with a specific company, but no decisions have yet been made on moving forward.
He plans to brief the school board next week.
“Whatever we decide,” Campbell said, “we’re going to have to give up something. It’s not easy.”
One thing which should help students and staff feel more comfortable already is the hiring of more unarmed school security personnel.
While there are two police officers in the building, ETHS also has its own safety employees.
Principal Taya Kinzie said ETHS is now up to full staffing numbers for those safety workers.
Kinzie noted that in the most recent gun incident, a student provided one of those staffers a tip about the weapon.
Kinzie said that when students are asked “who do you trust?,” the safety officers are often mentioned.