Dist. 59: Eight students have taken knives to school this year

 
 
Updated 4/15/2016 9:31 PM
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Eight students have taken knives to school since the start of the academic year in Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59, with one incident being described as intentional, officials said.

District officials reported the number during a school board meeting Thursday night, prompted by calls by board member Tim Burns for school staff members to begin inspecting district-issued computer tablet bags, where many of the knives have been found.

In the most recent case, a student on April 8 was brandishing a knife and threatening students in the Clearmont Elementary School gymnasium before the school day. Elk Grove Village police were called and no students were harmed, according to a message the district sent to parents.

Deputy Police Chief Chuck Walsh said the student, a 10-year old girl, took a pocket knife to school. She was getting assistance from school social workers and would not face any criminal charges, he said.

In the seven previous cases, Superintendent Art Fessler said, students took knives to school "by mistake."

While district officials refused to discuss specific cases, Associate Superintendent Tom Luedloff had mentioned in the past that one student had a box cutter in his jacket that had been used as his family was moving to a new home.

Burns said he had great concerns as a parent that students have used the computer bags to bring knives to school. He recommended regular inspections to "get the message across" to students.

"If we're not going to get rid of these computer bags, we need to do some type of spot-check," Burns said. "If we do a couple spot-checks, they'll get the idea, 'Hey, they're checking these computer bags.'"

Other board members recommended different approaches.

Karen Osmanski said class discussions about safety and help from social workers would be more effective.

"To me this is not about computer bags, this is about educating kids," Osmanski said.

Barbara Somogyi said the district has the right to access computer bags because they are the district's property, but she questioned whether other searches could occur.

"A knife can be placed in a pants pocket or jacket pocket," Somogyi said. "Do we say we're not allowing kids to wear pants with pockets or jackets with pockets?"

Board President Sharon Roberts said the district's safety committee would discuss the issue further.

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