District 225 board, Johns address school safety concerns
After the good (school choirs singing Christmas carols) and before the bad (if one considers tax levy resolutions bad) there came the ugly at Monday's meeting of the Glenbrook High Schools District 225 board of education.
"Today was a difficult day," Superintendent Dr. Charles Johns said.
He cited "a number of very concerning communications" circulating through the Glenbrook South High School community early Monday, which drew an in-house investigation and involvement by police.
A news release from the Glenview Police Department said a social media message posted by a Glenbrook South student showed what appeared to be a handgun, though no threats were made.
A second post, believed to be from the same student, indicated students should "leave school, go home and eat," the release said. Again, no threats were made to Glenbrook South students or staff.
Police determined that the handgun from the first message was a BB gun. No criminal charges were filed.
Either Johns or Johns and Glenbrook South Interim Principal Dr. Rosanne Williamson sent three emails to Glenbrook South parents and students on Monday, at 8:22 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. The first two said there was no credible threat to the school, while the third said "there is no immediate threat to our building for our school day tomorrow."
At 10:03 a.m. Tuesday, the school sent a fourth email to staff members, parents and students, saying another social media post was sent overnight and in the morning.
Administration verified the information was from "a few years ago," the email said, and that the school, Glenview police and social media companies were investigating the subsequent post. The school continued its regular schedule.
Johns said a "waterfall" of bogus social media messages following the initial posts made investigating any threat more difficult.
"Misinformation negatively impacts our ability to respond," he said. "As we're tracking down inaccuracies or reinterpretations of what people believe is happening, that means we have more work to do to track down those threads, those stories. As we learned today it was extremely disruptive at school."
Additional police presence was brought in on Monday, Johns said.
He explained that District 225 practices on threat assessments draw on the FBI and the National Association of School Psychologists and are jointly conducted by administration, Student Services, the dean's office and police.
Protocol includes interviews with the student -- who the district cannot identify due to privacy laws -- and parents, searches of the student, their belongings, locker, possibly their vehicle on campus and if necessary, the student's home. The student's internet history and computer contents also are searched, Johns said.
An individual follow-up is determined that may include a further search for weapons, a psychiatric assessment and school discipline.
"It's also important to note that, once a school assessment is done, we continue to do follow-up monitoring and further assessments down the road," Johns said.
He noted many improvements in security have been made in the district over the past several years. They include informative sessions under Safety and Security Manager Joel Reyes, door replacement, the ability to review security video for 90 days from 14 previously, remote tie-ins with police, and facility assessments, including one coming late this winter.
He noted the Mental Health First Aid class students took at the start of the school year, and partners like CATCH (Community Action Together for Children's Health).
"Most of it comes down to our standard of care that we all have for each other, our 'See Something, Say Something' mantra that we have in this district where people reach out and use our tools like Text-A-Tip (844-823-5323) when they are concerned. And it starts there," Johns said.
"We can make fortresses out of our schools. I can buy fancy razor wire to put all around our buildings. And I think that will erode the fundamental piece that keeps us safe, which is our culture of shared responsibility to keep each other safe. Our culture of care," he said.
Once Johns finished his presentation, board members were invited to comment.
Matt O'Hara, who has a daughter at Glenbrook South -- and she attended school Monday unlike others wary of the situation -- stressed being proactive.
"If you know something or if you see something or read something, you've got to report it. The soft intelligence is what's going to help us not have a really bad situation," O'Hara said.
"We don't want to see one child hurt," board Vice President Peter Glowacki said. "I've seen this district work day in, day out, doing everything it can to help that happen. And we're not going to rest."