ETHS/District 202 Board of Education.

Saying “we are at a place where we need to take a very close look at this,” the president of the District 202 Board of Education said she wants to bring community leaders together to discuss how to reduce the possibility of guns being brought to Evanston Township High School.

Pat Savage-Williams told a school board meeting Monday night that “it’s time for a conversation” on guns and a safe school environment.

ETHS has already taken a number of steps, in the wake of two gun-in-school incidents in less than a year, in December 2021 and November 2022.

Police leaving the high school on Dec. 16, 2021, apparently carrying evidence from the gun incident. (Bill Smith photo)

Savage-Williams said she plans to have a school board panel meet with various to-be-determined local leaders in January to talk about options and look at what other communities may be doing.

The “elephant in the room” is metal detectors, or the lack thereof. The District 202 administration is against adding airport-style devices, because of logistical issues such as the possibility of long, time-consuming lines, along with the perception that such detectors would, in the words of Superintendent Marcus Campbell, “erode the culture and climate of ETHS.”

Campbell told the board that the district is investigating whether “there is a way we can detect weapons using sophisticated detection systems” which are not what we see at the airport.

The superintendent and several board members spoke of a range of other responses, such adding more cameras and reducing access to doors, both of which have been done.

There are also larger societal/educational issues which will be addressed, such as creating a program for in-school truants, and working to build trust between students and the school’s safety staff.

As for students, there was a school-wide “student voice forum” on Monday, run by the student union, where several hundred participated. Safety was one of the topics.

Principal Taya Kinzie reported that there is not a unanimous student opionion, and also that “some students feel different than their parents do.”

One parent did speak at the board meeting, in favor of metal detectors

“I don’t really want them, but for safety reasons that’s what we have to do,” said the father of two ETHS students.

“You can have all the idealism in the world,” he noted, “but this is the reality.”

Superintendent Campbell said that “every student in Evanston has the right to feel safe,” but there is “not a single solution.”

But whatever may be done, Campbell said school safety is on a lot of minds.

“I have conversations about it wherever I go.”

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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