The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 Board updated on school safety, security
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 was given an update on school safety and security at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 14.
Normally the presentation would include student discipline data, but U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said it was pulled and will be brought to the board “at a later date.”
John Heiderscheidt, director of school safety and culture, presented data including the responses by students and staff to the 5Essentials survey.
Student responses on safety dropped from 44 points in 2017 to 41 in 2018 (state dropped from 55 to 49) on the survey, and staff responses on teacher safety dropped from 40 to 35 points (state dropped 48 to 44).
“Looking deeper at the whys of that, I do not know the whys from the 5Essentials but we are seeing that around the state also,” Heiderscheidt said.
Heiderscheidt said that teachers expressed their most concern with a lack of respect from students and disorder in the hallways.
Student responses to the survey on school safety remained flat at 60 points in 2017 and 2018 compared to 66 for the state (a drop from 68).
“As we maintained a 60, the state average came down two points,” Heiderscheidt said. “So not an increase like we want, but we are maintaining in that number in that perception of students.”
Heiderscheidt said he made a mistake in how he presented the numbers as it looked like percentages. Board member Jeanette Ward asked him to elaborate on the numbers.
“The 5Essentials is not a straight percentage of answers because for each measurement, there are six questions and each one of those questions there are four responses,” Heiderscheidt said. “So how that is scored is not a straight percentage so the perception I’m giving here is not an accurate perception.”
“So is it close to a percentage then?” Ward asked. She added: “It’s a little confusing way to report data.”
“What they explain here is it is not a percentile rank or a percentage,” Heiderscheidt said.
Board member Sue Kerr suggested the board be presented with examples next year instead but Sanders said different metrics could be used based on strategic plan discussions. Sanders said the board previously chose the 5Essentials survey.
“But the board didn’t decide the questions because we have data from the state of Illinois,” Ward said.
Sanders replied: “Correct, we used the questions that were listed on the Illinois 5Essentials as possible things to use and so that’s how those three ended up on the short list.”
Regarding security systems, Heiderscheidt said there are more than 100 panic buttons (silent alarms), 600 cameras and 2,000 handheld and base radios in the district.
Data from the district’s visitor’s entrance system showed that 188,000 visitors have come to U-46 buildings since August 2016 while 35 private alerts have been entered and 34 sexual offenders have been flagged.
Regarding the sex offenders, Heiderscheidt said: “Nearly all of them were parents who have a right to their child’s education under our supervision and our terms.”
The district uses interns to perform security compliance checks at schools and over the past four checks schools were in compliance 98.3 to 100 percent on doors locked, 86 to 98.3 percent on intercom inquiry, 96.5 to 98.3 percent for greeting time, 94.7 to 100 percent on sign-in and 91.2 to 100 percent on visitor tags procedures.
“We are very pleased with these results,” Heiderscheidt said.
Board member Melissa Owens said regarding greeting time that some buildings have offices further away from the entrance. Heiderscheidt said interns are trained and school staff are told that those who buzz in a visitor are responsible for that visitor.
The district has 100 percent compliance in completing safety drills (fire, bus evacuation, severe weather, lockdown, annual school safety training) since 2014 according to Heiderscheidt.
Heiderscheidt said 58 percent of U-46 staff has been trained with the Crisis Prevention Institute, and there are 18 certified instructors in U-46.
There are 26 schools with trained resiliency teams for trauma informed care for dealing with students who have had adverse childhood experiences according to Heiderscheidt.
Board member Veronica Noland asked how the 26 schools were chosen to which Heiderscheidt said all schools were invited in this second year. In a pilot year, four schools were chosen based on data.
“Compassion fatigue is real and it affects our ability to even deal with a minor escalation sometimes,” Heiderscheidt said and added he hopes in 20 years there are trauma informed communities. “This should not just be a school activity. This should be a community based activity.”
Heiderscheidt said last year the district performed its annual active shooter drill at Elgin High School and the Elgin Police Department found that an intergovernmental agreement previously made with the district to allow access to live feed video of schools was not effective.
“What we found out in that situation was that the live feed was not able to help us with the police department’s ability to see what the offender looked like in this scenario,” said Heiderscheidt who added there is a plan to change that agreement to allow access to archival footage rather than live feeds.
Board member Sue Kerr asked about police departments involved in the exercise and Heiderscheidt said there were hundreds of police and fire vehicles involved and Sanders said other departments in the district, like Bartlett and South Elgin, and some out of the district, like Crystal Lake, took part.
Kerr also asked how the district deals with a “threat from within” a district building. Heiderscheidt said U-46 uses a model from the FBI and the Secret Service and U-46 is trying to figure out “how to promote us in saying that if you see something, say something.”
Heiderscheidt went on to say he was “excited” that students protested the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment with district approval despite appearing to be against U-46 policy.
“I was excited to see that we had kids marching and protesting and basically saying we’re stepping into this and we want a voice in this agenda. And the kids that did that are basically saying that we’re going to report, I think, when we hear something, when we see something, when we feel something suspicious,” Heiderscheidt said. He added: “Our message is if you feel uncomfortable about something you read, something you hear, something you see please report it so we can do something about it.”
Last March, Sanders instructed school staff to “support student-led,” anti-gun protests organized by the partisan Women’s March. Students were instructed to leave classes to take part in the protest.
The district’s Student Code of Conduct prohibits “demonstration and mass protest,” and Board Policy 7.196 states: “Student disruptions to the continuity of the instructional program on school district premises, or at school-related activities, will be viewed by the Board of Education, in consultation with administration, as a serious matter and may be grounds for suspension and/or expulsion.”