Forest Park, IL...
Proviso Township High Schools District 209 hosted police and community leaders at a School and Community Safety Forum on July 16 at Proviso Math and Science Academy.
The forum was designed as a way to discuss different ways that the district, area law enforcement, and the community at large can promote the safety of students and the community and develop partnerships to accomplish common goals. The forum featured 13 police officials and community leaders from the villages that comprise the district. They provided their perspectives on dealing with safety issues in the community and ways to protect students and community members in light of recent high-profile incidents.
"I’m really pleased at the support you’re showing for the safety of our children," said Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, superintendent of District 209, at the forum. "I’ve felt very supported by the village officials and police chiefs. It’s not about the blame game. It’s about partnering."
As a whole, the panelists said that the schools and the community are safe overall. Sam Pulia, village president of Westchester, said that the police department provides special watches and patrols for schools.
"Having a police officer on site at least part of the time provides a sense of security," he said.
Joseph Lukazek, Hillside Police Chief, said that the number of arrests at Proviso West High School, which is located in Hillside, is down from what they were 10 years ago. He criticized the media for causing incidents such as the fight that took place at Proviso West High School in February to be "blown out of proportion."
"It was a fight in a high school," he said. "It’s common sense. They have fights in high school. The media really, really likes to take a story and make a big deal out of it."
Andre Harvey, director of public safety in Bellwood, also said that the schools are safe.
"Everyone on the panel is a radio call away," he said. "Some of the security staff happens to be trained police officers. The schools are very safe."
Dr. Collins-Hart said that more information needs to be exchanged among district and school officials, police, and the community to prevent the escalation of incidents, especially as many incidents have their origins outside of the schools.
"I believe that it’s common practice that if police officers know something, they let us know and vice versa," she said. "If you’re a community person and you hear something, I would like to extend an invitation for you to call us."
One of the ideas that came out of the meeting was for a hotline for students, parents, and community members to call to provide district officials tips on potential safety issues. The district is in the process of installing a tips hotline at all schools, a text line, and a link on the website for tipsters to contact with any information.
Members of the District 209 Board of Education said that community members, particularly parents, are needed to work with students to help keep them out of trouble.
"We can’t do it without you," said Mr. Daniel Adams, board president.