District 202 Board of Education, Monday night.

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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6 Comments

  1. Have you ever discussed how to address the issue of some kids having guns because they do not feel safe? Why do some kids have guns? Reasons vary I’m sure but some feel guns make them safer. They feel targeted. Work on that.

  2. As an ETHS parent and community member I am concerned about all of our childrens’ safety in the school. The two instances of loading guns being found in the school in the past year should be a wake up call to all. With this in mind, I applaud Dr. Campbell and the school board for considering/searching for a way to install a “sophisticated detection system” which can detect weapons when entering the school premises. I know from seamlessly entering a Cubs game at Wrigley Field last summer that such systems do exist and avoid much of the inconvenience of airport style metal detectors.

    A comment/suggestion to Mayor Biss and City Councilmembers: We know that students have been under enormous stress due to the pandemic lockdowns and extended time away from school.  Violent crime in our community and in particular shootings and murders of high schoolers have increased alarmingly since the start of the pandemic. As Mayor Biss said in a letter to the community this time last year: “A world of quarantine and physical isolation layered on top of heavy social media usage is perfectly designed to make us less mentally healthy, angrier, and, at least potentially, more violent . . . the pandemic has taken a deep toll on our mental health and on our ability to treat one another with kindness, dignity, and respect”.

    I’m wondering if the city could be involved in supporting the cost of installing such a metal detectors in the high school through allocation from the $43 million one-time Covid recovery funding. Violence throughout Evanston has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic and I think a straight line can be drawn from COVID to the shootings/murders and to loaded guns in the school. As I understand it, right now there are no public safety initiatives being considered for the $43 million grant.

    Would this not be a worthy project to be funded or supported by that recovery funding?

  3. I urge District 202 Board members to draw from the experiences of those school environments that have considered and dealt with the issue of gun violence for decades, namely Columbine, Sandy Hook, and others.
    The decided message heard from these experiences is the reliance of students reporting what they “see and hear”, with continued reinforcement of encouraging students to report any discomforting possibilities surrounding the potential for violence. Give serious thought to the implications of creating an “armed or disarming” fortress.

  4. So we have 14 year olds, 15, year olds and 16 year olds walking around the high school with loaded guns. How do they get these guns? Do they have parents who know what’s going on in their children’s lives? They feel they are targeted. By whom? Gang members? I remember years ago a former police chief said he wasn’t as worried as he estimated there were only about 250 gang members in Evanston. Seriously? Well I think Evanston has a problem it would like to ignore. Teens carrying loaded weapons in the school and on the streets is a huge problem. I don’t think they put the guns away when they get home from school. I don’t think they are storing them in a locked safe when they get home from school. Are there no grown ups here?

  5. A conversation/plan should’ve happened the first time this happened. What happened to the consultant report from last year on safety after the lockdown? Did they actually change anything other than making staff wear id’s and making them also go through main entrances? Did this target the problem at all? I don’t think they will actually do anything until someone gets shot during school.

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