By Mark Weyermuller, Opinion Contributor
Last Tuesday, Township High School District #113, which contains Highland Park High School, held a board meeting focused on school safety.
Before the meeting a group of parents rallied outside with signs that said, “Metal Detectors Now, Make Our Schools Safe Now.”
Another sign said, “Secure Our Schools Now.”
There were about twenty people at the rally, mostly parents with some students, and many of the parents wore yellow tee shirts which said:
More Armed Security
What are you waiting for?
The current school board has been reluctant to advocate for metal detectors. The concerns stem from a student having a gun in the school back in April. The alert resulted in a two-hour lockdown with students locked in classrooms.
The community has been much on edge after seven people were murdered with 48 wounded during the local July 4, 2022 parade in downtown Highland Park. Illinois Review covered the story and the arrest of a suspect.
After the rally, parents were allowed to enter the school administration building for the meeting. In addition, a large group of local media were on hand. There was some irony as the board is reluctant to add metal detectors for students yet these parents had to be wanded and their bags searched.
And there were at least four security personnel for the searches along with three armed police officers. It’s unclear if board members and school administrators were searched also but indications were that they were not searched or screened.
There was some mention the board may have felt that the “threat level” was high with parents of Highland Park students. Again, there was irony or even hypocrisy that the board had metal detectors and increased armed security to watch parents yet they are reluctant to do the same for students on regular school days.
It has also been reported that metal detectors were used at the recent graduation.
The board decided to have almost 90-minutes of presentations prior to public comment of their selected speakers. The regular public comment consisted of three minutes per speaker, with a total of 30 minutes. About a dozen people spoke.
The presentations included survey results on public opinion about security. The board would not disclose the cost to hire a company to conduct a survey but some estimates are $20,000. One parent has sent a FOIA request to uncover the actual cost of the estimate.
Why not report on the cost during the board meeting? The survey company spent over thirty minutes showing various slides of the results. Many in the room thought the survey was biased, confusing and even meaningless.
This author did speak on the need for more armed security at the schools, and in an odd occurrence, the camera did not show the parents speaking, only the time clock.
Overall, the consensus is that everybody wants students safe in school. The issue is how to do it.
The next school board meeting is Tuesday, June 13, 2023 at 7:00 pm.