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.”