How District 113 is keeping students safe this school year
As you read this column, District 113 is finalizing preparations for the 2022-23 school year, which begins for all students on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
In some ways, this summer has been no different from previous years because every summer we are busy preparing for the upcoming school year.
This summer, however, the horrific mass shooting our community experienced July 4 and its aftermath present unique challenges that we must address in the upcoming school year and beyond.
Student and Staff Safety
It was true before July 4 and it remains true now: the safety of our students and staff is our first priority.
District 113 evaluates security and safety on a regular basis. Procedures, training, best practices, new and emerging technologies, we are always seeking ways to strengthen and improve.
Although we do not share many details publicly for obvious reasons, I can share one example to illustrate this ongoing effort. We are implementing technology that will alert us if a door is propped open. This technology is just one of the tools in our tool kit that will help us keep access to our buildings secure.
Social and Emotional Supports
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of increased stress, anxiety, depression and an overall rise in behavioral and mental health needs were a concern.
The pandemic exacerbated this situation and District 113 responded with a multitiered system of supports, known as MTSS, to meet students where they are and to provide students with the support they need to be successful.
In the spring, the District 113 Board of Education approved prioritizing a staffing model with embedded MTSS in the 2022-23 school year. Although the faculty and staff embedded through this MTSS model will continue to do their work as we had planned, we also know that now we have an additional layer of need adding to the scope of this MTSS program. On Aug. 4, the Board discussed additional resources to support students and staff.
If You See or Hear Something, Say Something
In its 2021 report, Averting Targeted School Violence, the U.S. Secret Service shared several key findings and implications. Among them:
Students are best positioned to identify and report concerning behaviors displayed by their classmates;
The role of parents and families in recognizing concerning behavior is critical to prevention.
If you are aware of an immediate threat or emergency, call 911. If you or a loved one is at risk for self-harm, you can call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
If you are in need of information or referrals to social services, call 211.
If you have a non-urgent concern specific to District 113, you can report your concern by calling or texting (847) 262-3363, clicking on the Tip Line icon on the dist113.org website, or through the District 113 app.
Each of us has a role to play in keeping our schools and communities safe. Please look out for your loved ones, friends and neighbors.
Please ask for help if you need it. Please report a concern even if you think it may be nothing, let the appropriate entity know so your concern can be addressed.
Bruce Law, Ed.D., is the superintendent of Township High School District 113, which represents Deerfield and Highland Park high schools.