Evanston Township High School won’t have a “safe zone” in place in time for the start of classes later this month.

The security measure pushed by the school board and school administrators was held by Evanston aldermen Monday in the face of continued opposition from several neighborhood activists.

School Safety Director Sam Pettineo told Evanston Now this morning that he anticipates the new powers police would gain under the proposed agreement would be used very sparingly.

“If we use last year as an indication,” Pettineo said, “I bet we won’t invoke it more than five times next year.”

Pettineo says most days dismissal time at the high school goes smoothly, but occasionally security officials receive tips from students that a fight is brewing.

“We want to uses this in a very limited way to prevent conflicts from happening,” he added.

With the school safe zone in place, he says, security officers could ask a youth standing across the street from the school waiting to pick a fight with a student coming out of the building to move along. And if the person didn’t, they could be arrested by Evanston police and charged with criminal trespass.

As an example of a situation in which the safe zone provision could be helpful, Pettineo said that last year two students who had ties to rival factions of a Chicago street gang were in involved in a dispute through the school year.

At one point one of them was inviting other members of the Gangster Disciples gang to the school to intervene if he got into a dispute with the other kid, the security chief said.

The state statute authorizing the expanded school safe zone went into effect in 2012, and Pettineo says he discovered it several months ago while doing research on things the school could do that could have an impact on the crime problem.

After discussing the idea with Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington, Pettineo says, the language for the joint agreement between the school district and the city was developed by the legal staff of both entities.

Eddington says the the school is trying to descalate conflict before it breaks out into violence.

While one part of the statute applies to students who’ve been suspended or expelled, Eddington said students wouldn’t be automatically barred from the school zone for that.

Pettineo said no students were actually expelled last year, although as many as 30 were sent to alternative school placements off campus for disciplinary reasons.

“We don’t ban them,” Pettineo said, “but we just tell them they have to notify us before they come back on the property.”

In addition, less than a dozen adults were sent trespass letters last year, he added. Those could involve parents who created a disturbance in the school or former students who came back on campus to cause trouble.

“We’ve had situtations in the past,” Pettineo said, “where the older brothers or sisters of students involved in a conflict come back to campus to participate in a conflict they’re having with other students.”

But the complaining neighbors — decades beyond school age themselves — voiced fears Monday night that they wouldn’t be able to leave their homes or walk down the street without being harassed by police.

The ETHS board agreed to terms of the proposed agreement with the city at a board meeting June 24.

But apparently no formal outreach was done to residents of the area immediately around the school.

Opposition to the proposal first emerged when it came before the City Council’s Human Services Committee last week.

The lack of outreach by school officials was criticized Monday by Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who said she’d visited every business in the area on Saturday and none had heard about the proposal.

But School Board President Gretchen Livingston in a post on her Facebook page Tuesday, blamed city officials for the delay, saying none of the city officials on the City-School Liaison Committee raised concerns about the proposal at a meeting of the committee in May and that the city then cancelled its July Human Services Committee meeting where the proposal was to have been discussed.

Aldermen said they planned to schedule a public meeting on the proposal hosted by the City-School Liaison Committee for sometime before the next City Council meeting on Sept. 9.

Related documents

Pettineo memo to school board

Proposed safe school zone boundary map

State “Safe School Zone” statute

Proposed “Safe School Zone” intergovernmental agreement (at page 880)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Thanks 5th ward residents for protecting the Gangster Disciples

    I am sure that the Gangster Disciples appreciate the support they are receiving from Betty Ester, George Mitchell and the other pro-gang citizens who have been vocally opposing safety at the High School.

    I am sure they won't feel they have blood on their hands the next time there is violence at the school.

    1. It’s wrong to call critics pro-gang

      I went back to the start of this fiasco and looked at the statemants made by Ms Ester and Mr Mitchell. Strangely I  could not find any support for gangs in their statements. Clearly you are drawing a stereotypical conclusion to bolster your point.

      To say that these long time residents and pillars of the community are pro gang and anti safety is just wrong. Perhaps you need to reach out to these people in a less hostile manner and try to find out just why they initially opposed the plan. 

      You might find out that with more information out there that thier minds have changed. Or you can just keep posting indignant diatribes under the cover of secrecy. 

  2. Disappointed to have more reasons not to send student to ETHS

    How hard is it to get this done?  D202 dropped the ball in communicating the proposal to the neighbors and that allowed rumors and misinformation to flourish. Then the neighbors (and those speaking on behalf of the neighbors) seem to be more concerned about protecting the bad actors around the school than the thousands of decent, school-focused students who must walk those sidewalks every day. 

    What part of this farce encourages any parent to send a student to ETHS?  There are real safety concerns outside ETHS but this positive step will not be in place for this year's opening of school. Incompetence by those running the school and screwed-up priorities for those living nearby who sunk this proposal. 

    To each of these groups:  get your priorities straight so our police can tell the bad guys to stay away from our students around ETHS.

    Safety must improve around ETHS and soon or we will be moving out of Evanston. It is as simple as that. If I wanted the dangers of a gritty urban school, I would move someplace where the taxes are a lot lower.  I want safety on the route to and from school. For the taxes paid to D202, that's not too much to ask. And the highly paid administrators really should know how to do community outreach. Doesn't ETHS have a highly paid staff member with community outreach in his title?

    1. In defense of ETHS, how could you anticipate the irrationality?

      There is no way D202 "dropped the ball."  You would have to be completely delusional and irrational to not support this proposal. Who would NOT want more public safety officials helping a crime ridden area?

      It is pretty clear that those opposed are either a) really dense or b) sympathetic to the criminal element.

      Neither of those positions would change their response had D202 done anything different.

      1. Yes, D202 should have engaged the community early

        Though many of us see the residents' response as less than rational, D202 administrators needed to learn that those feelings and thoughts existed long before they went to the City Council committee. Instead, the D202 administrators had to walk away with a sunk (but not dead) proposal. Very embarrassing and it should not have happened. 

        Check out the administrators working at D202.  They are well educated and well compensated. They have no excuse for assuming that the neighbors will willingly follow whatever D202 proposes without some information directly to them from the school.

        School administrators, especially those whose job titles include community outreach, should have emailed, distributed leaflets and hosted a public meeting for the community early in this process.  No first day rollout of the Safe School Zone is a huge disappointment and a major missed opportunity.

  3. The Enablers have to realize…

    that there will be serious long-term repercussions if they continue to attempt to prevent the institution of a safe zone from happening.  All Evanstonians are concerned about what has been happening lately around ETHS.  This is not a racial issue, it is not a socioeconomic issue.  It is a common sense safety issue.  We need to do whatever we can to guarantee a safe school environment, and attempts to undermine it will not be well received.   I hope everyone in the community, and especially 5th Ward residents (of which I am one), understand this.

  4. It’s delayed, not dead

    I attended the City Council meeting on August 12 on a different topic. You can see the entire meeting, including the presentations and debate, on the City of Evanston You Tube site. I would strongly encourage citizens to watch the meeting prior to jumping to conclusions about intentions. 

    In my opinion, the presentation to the Council by the Superintendent was poorly done. He started with a joke about the hour, went on to argue that "safety is good," and that District 202 really needed Safe School zone. His remarks that the community had been informed and engaged brough a negative reaction. Watch the video and judge for yourself. I was under the impression that the Superintendent did not expect the reaction, so was surprised the learn that the same concerns were expressed to District 202 members at a committee meeting just days before. Just my view, he should have addressed concerns in his remarks.

    For the record, I am white and not a resident of the 2nd or 5th wards. I am concerned about safety and deplore gangs. But if this regulation affected my neighborhood, I'd have some concerns and questions. Why can't the resident concerns be answered without name calling and accusation? We have to listen to residents of other wards complain about everything from bus noise to chicken coops to bands playing too loudly at Ryan Field. Why can't residents of the 2nd and 5th wards ask questions about a regulation that affects the civil rights to free assembly and travel?

    Finally, the citizens of both wards 2 and 5 accepted the new Police "stop and frisk" approach, which is far more controversial than Safe School Zone. They had the opportunity  to understand it, question it and improve it. Like everyone else on every other street in Evanston, these residents want to participate  in issues that affect their neighborhood vs. being "talked at." I personally think that it's irresponsible to question their commitment to safety because they have unanswered questions.

    Finally, the Safe School Zone  initiative may be exactly the right thing to do around ETHS. But it is new and important  citizen questions have not been consistently addressed. The Council vote was to table it, not kill it. I don't know who dropped the ball in managing this change, but it was dropped. But it's not too late to pick it up and move on.


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