DOWNERS GROVE – A letter reviewing the safety practices and procedures in Community High School District 99 was written by Superintendent Hank Thiele and sent to the community two days after the Florida school shooting.
In the Feb. 16 letter, Thiele addressed topics such as secure entrances at both high schools, emergency training received by staff and the relationship between the district and the Downers Grove Police Department.
Main entrances at both Downers Grove North and South high schools remain open throughout the day, but “trained security staff check in visitors and run their credentials through the sex offender database before they are allowed to enter our schools,” Thiele said in the letter.
All other doors at both schools are locked and secured following the start of each school day.
Thiele added the district continually modifies and evaluates security procedures.
“A safety task force, which includes community police, fire and school personnel, meets regularly to recommend changes in practices, personnel, facilities and technology to make our schools safer,” he said.
The team has made numerous recommendations that have been implemented recently, including adding more video cameras, executing a variety of safety drills and expanding safety searches to include canines, Thiele said.
Additionally, the district has hired 10 trained security personnel who are stationed at various entrances and patrol the schools throughout the day and evening.
“Staff and students participate in training sessions and drills to prepare for worst-case scenarios in our schools,” Thiele said.
Specifically, staff members participate in an annual emergency lockdown/violent intruder simulation. They also work with Downers Grove police to deploy ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) emergency response techniques, he said.
"This training occurs in addition to standard safety drills, including fire, severe weather, bus evacuation and shelter in place," Thiele said.
The district also partners with school resource officers: police officers who work inside the school buildings. One armed, plain-clothed officer is stationed at each school.
The officers work with administrators, deans and counselors to developing crime-prevention strategies and provide input in the district’s crisis planning. The officers also are responsible for criminal investigations and complaints that take place within the schools, Thiele said.
Additionally, police have access to school video cameras to assist in the event of an emergency.
The district also has implemented the Anonymous Alerts reporting system, which allows anyone to make a report without being identified. A red comment bubble icon is located at the top right-hand side of all district website pages, leading to the report page.
"As we’ve shared, people who are at-risk often show signs or signals before an act of violence happens," Thiele said.
The district also relies on counselors, psychologists, social workers and a student assistance coordinator to work with students who are struggling with social-emotional issues.