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In the wake of the scandal involving alleged thefts by security personnel from lockers in the gymnasium at Evanston Township High School, students and parents have been advised that they can now use their own locks rather than being required to use school-issued locks.

The announcement was made by District 202 School Board President Pat Savage-Williams at the beginning of Monday night’s school board meeting. Copies of her statement have also been distributed to students and parents.

Ms. Savage-Williams read the statement and then went on with the regular agenda of the meeting without soliciting comment from other board members.

Students will still receive school-issued high-security locks as part of the registration process, she said, but students have the option of bringing their own locks from home.

She cautioned, however, that “if there is a reasonable suspicion of contraband or anything that presents a possible danger,” school officials can cut the lock.

Even so, the protocol for cutting off a lock will require a minimum of two people present, one of whom must be an administrator.

“In an emergency, such as the need to retrieve an EpiPen or inhaler from a gym wing locker,” she said, “a lock may need to be cut off if other access to these life-saving devices is not possible.”

Following is a complete text of her statement:

“The District 202 Board of Education and the Evanston Township High School District 202 Administration have shared the shock, dismay, and disgust with students and parents upon viewing the videos of two safety employees at ETHS purportedly violating the trust placed in them to protect our students and their belongings in the locker room. We wish to thank the students who were able to secure video evidence.

“Upon viewing the videos on April 28, 2016, the administration immediately, the same day, placed the employees on paid administrative leave, allowing time for a careful investigation and due process. The employees are no longer employed by the district.

“Within days of receiving the videos, the administration determined the following steps:

“A new online system for reporting lost items has been established so that reports go directly to several key people in the district, including Principal Campbell and Associate Principal Clark.

“Going forward, all freshman and transfer students will still be issued a high security lock as part of the registration process. However, all students will have the option to use either the school-issued lock or use their own personal lock.

“Master keys for school-issued locks for Gym Wing lockers will be destroyed and combinations of school-issued locks for Gym Wing lockers will not be recorded by the school. 

“If there is reasonable suspicion of contraband or anything that presents a possible danger being in a Gym Wing locker and the student is not available to open the locker, then the lock will be cut off. 

“The protocol for cutting off a lock will require a minimum of two people present and one person must be an administrator. If it has been necessary to open a locker, the student will be notified that the locker had to be opened and inspected and, of course, will see the cut lock.

“In an emergency, such as the need to retrieve an EpiPen or inhaler from a Gym Wing locker, a lock may need to be cut off if other access to these life-saving devices is not possible.

“No safety officer or other ETHS employee may open or inspect a Gym Wing locker without following this express protocol.

“Items in unlocked lockers may not be removed by employees. Unlocked lockers will be zip-locked until the students return to claim their belongings. Unattended items not secured in a locker, such as backpacks, will be moved to a locked cage area until a student returns to claim their belongings. 

“These changes have already been determined and many have already been implemented.

Additionally, the Board and Administration have also decided to expand the internal investigation to gather additional information and ideas from students, staff, and parents to protect against future Gym Wing locker room thefts.

“We have heard concerns about how past reports of lost or stolen items were handled and concerns about how allegations about safety personnel were addressed or not addressed. The internal investigation will probe these issues to assure that the concerns are identified and steps are taken so those issues are all addressed properly in the future.

“The expanded internal investigation will include these steps:

“Principal Campbell and Associate Principal Clark are conducting student focus groups to hear firsthand from students. All current students at ETHS, grades 9 through 12, have been invited to attend a focus session the week of May 23, 2016. These focus sessions will provide a four-year student perspective from freshmen to seniors.

“The investigation will be directed by Principal Campbell so that the top school administrator will have all the information and input that is gathered.

“An online ‘Lost & Stolen Item Questionnaire’ has been established so students, parents, recent alumni, and other stakeholders can describe the experiences they have had regarding lost or stolen items in the ETHS Gym Wing locker rooms prior to April, 2016.

“Submissions to this questionnaire are completely anonymous. The link to this questionnaire is available on the Lost & Found page of the ETHS website.

 “IMPORTANT: If you need to report a recent lost or stolen item, please use the ‘Lost Property Report’ form located on this page.

“Information will be gathered and a report offering further safeguards will be prepared this summer. At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, a detailed report will be prepared that outlines the complaints and concerns received and the specific steps that have been taken to make certain that all lost or stolen item reports are handled properly by safety staff and other school employees going forward.

“Dr. Marcus Campbell will report back to the Board of Education on Sept. 6, 2016, the very first school board meeting of the 2016-17 school year, about the findings and any additional steps the district will take to address these concerns. The report will focus on what we have learned and what has been done to address reporting and investigating lost or stolen items in the future.

“On a daily basis, ETHS employees work diligently to provide a school environment where students feel safe and inspired to learn. We appreciate the input by so many of you and recognize it will take all of our efforts to help us move toward a desired result.

“We ask our students to remain conscious of their role in securing their belongings in the locker rooms and locking their lockers securely with each use. We can document daily that some students regularly do not lock their lockers and regularly leave unattended items in the locker room.

“Also, we ask students, parents, and staff to continue keeping us informed using the ‘Lost Property Report’ form and ‘Lost & Stolen Item’ questionnaire. Moving forward, we are certain that our collective efforts will help curtail incidents of theft in the Gym Wing locker rooms at Evanston Township High School.”

Earlier story:

ETHS to limit locker master key access

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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8 Comments

  1. Locker thefts at ETHS

    These are the children of adults who need to be reminded to lock their cars and garages. Still don't want students to wear ID cards so they can be identified.

    Every period the safety personnel in the locker rooms are responsible for thousands of dollars in students property. Students, just like adults, have a habit of leaving their property unattended.

    The school administrators in charge of the safety department know this! They have the paperwork to support this as well. Based on the video that was shown I believe it does not warrant the firing or disciplinary action of any of the videos' main characters. They are merely taking the fall for a school district that is taking advantage of  taxpayers.

    You should systematically have all aspects of how your tax dollars are being used looked into. So much money is being spent unjustly. From employees who are useless to equipment that does not work. If the safety officers had access to all lockers/locks and were thieves, more than $20 dollars would be missing. 

  2. Don’t punish the students

    So the two employees in the videos are "no longer employed by the district."  But are they still in the building or at any ETHS facility at any time, such as working for a contractor or other entity?  The School Board president says that the two employees were put on leave immediately after the administration became aware of the videos went public. 

    Another thing–where is any mention of involving the Evanston Police? Or does the administration just want to keep this dirty laundry of recurring thefts under wraps among its own employees who knew or should have known what was going on?  Perhaps if the police had been involved regularly and sooner, someone at the EPD would have figured out what was happening long ago.

    The open forum scheduled for students–ETHS administration, you know that students are suspicious, right?  Students see this as another attempt by the administration to discover the identity of the students who set up the sting to catch the thieves. Students believe that once the administration has that identity information, the administration will punish those students for "filming in a locker room." 

    Face it, the administration either knew or should have known that its employees charged with protecting students and their property were stealing from students. The administration failed students and their families when they refused to investigate in any serious way the many thefts over the past few years.

    The administration cruelly imposed or allowed others to impose discipline on or make negative comments to students who even questioned whether safety officers were involved in the thefts. No word from the administration to apologize to those students or clear their school records of that discipline.

    It was students, yes, people between the age of 14 and 18, who brought this whole nasty mess to light and made the administration look B-A-D.  Wonder why our many highly educated ETHS administrators couldn't figure it out?

    The administration certainly does not like looking bad. Students have good reason to believe that there is a campaign under way by the administration to find those students and make them pay.

    So ETHS administration, tell us whether the two employees in the videos are still working in or have access to any ETHS building or other facility in any capacity.

    Also, the ETHS administration needs to state publicly and in writing that ETHS, its Board, its administrators and its employees will not participate in any way in the prosecution or any other punishment of the students who set up the recording equipment to catch these thieves.

     

    1. They were not charged

      They were not charged! That's why the police weren't involved any further. No evidence that anything was taken other than a questionable video. Any safety officer that does his or her job right encounters unsecured locks or lockers everyday. You have no idea how many thousands of dollars the safety department saves these students everyday.

      1. Nothing to see here?

        No charges were filed against the safety officers because the students were intimidated by the administration.  Those students feared charges against them!  No complaining witness, no charges.

        Check out the video again.  See that wad of currency that the safety officer slaps into the newly-opened locker after rummaging through another locker near it.  Then see that same officer snatch the same wad of currency out of that locker before he closes it.

        Hmmm.  Looks like a wad of currency wound up in the officer's mitt after he rummaged through student lockers.

        Here's the old rule that those officers were supposed to follow: find an open locker, bag all of its contents (that's all, not just put currency into your hand) and take the bag to the security office in the gym area.  Even if the locker had been open, the officer did not follow that policy.  Instead, he selectively chose to handle the cash.

        Yes, the honest safety officers help students protect their property and we all support them. But the ones in the video.  They just help themselves to other people's property.

        1. ETHS administration what are you doing?

           This whole thievery in the locker rooms need to stop our children need to be protected and as long as the safety department still involved in monitoring the locker rooms our children's possessions are not safe. Administration needs to figure out a way to remove the safety from the locker rooms so our children can feel safe again. The new rules set in place still includes the safety officers being in charge of the locker rooms.  ETHS administration what are you doing? I don't think that right now this is the best solution. Administration needs to remove them completely. 

    2. Student Sleuths
      Great comment! So, it took some gutsy students who were fed up with the administrative baloney, to get this matter out in the open. GOOD for them! Youth who stand up for themselves, rather than accepting bullying from authoritative figures….wow. I guess that showed them! What a terrible thing for adults in power to cover up….makes them look stupid, and not worthy of educating students. Do any of these teachers instruct an ethics class? Or take part in anti-bullying programs? Or think they are better than students because the have college degrees? Shame on all the adults involved with this. Just goes to show that being an adult does not mean you are better than children. They were all accessories if they covered this up. Here’s to home schooling!

  3. Dr. Witherspoon?

    Thefts from the boys locker room have been going on for a long time. How long? Years. Finally, actions are being taken, but only after students took action. Why did this take so long?

    Why did Dr. Witherspoon not take action after he met with parents in 2009 about the same issue?

    Why did these thefts continue?

    Class Deans were informed and they disciplined students with detentions for accusing security guards of stealing their money.

    Who else in the chain of command knew information about these thefts and why wasn't action taken?

    The students all knew there was a problem, but the administration didn't? Or is there a culture at ETHS of sharing good news and denying bad news – see today's Tribune article

    Fortunately, changes are being made at ETHS, but only in response to students taking action.

    1. So not many of you think the
      So not many of you think the students would steal from each other? It’s the safety delsrtment? There is plenty of illegal activity committed by the students daily. Ask the adminstrators to share the data like the police department does (daily blotter). No names of course but the incidents that get reported wouldn’t you like to see that? This is small potatoes compared to the real issues at that school. In a way with all the publicity this story is getting takes the light away from the serious safety issues at ETHS.

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