Evanston’s parents request research into weapons detection system at ETHS
Last month, Evanston Township High School was locked down for hours after school security discovered two loaded handguns in students’ backpacks. Now, after getting little information or transparency from the administration, a group of local parents are asking the school board to conduct research into the possibility of installing a weapons detection system at the high school.
The petition, which garnered 200 signatures from other parents and community members over four days this week, asks the council to commit to seeking the detection of weapons before its next meeting on February 7. Additionally, the group is requesting a presentation of the research findings at the March Board meeting and discussion for community feedback at the April meeting.
“Our children and E-Town staff deserve to learn and teach in a safer environment,” the petition reads. “We urge the 202 Board of Directors to do the right thing for our community and our children and are committed to assisting in any way we can in this endeavour.”
Amy Averbuch, whose son attends ETHS, presented the petition during public comments at the January board meeting on behalf of parents organizing the demands. Averbuch said she was “really shaken” by the December lockdown, adding that she wanted more communication from the school about plans to address the situation and prevent future lockdowns or threats of violence.
For Averbuch and other parents who helped draft the petition, she says, the lockdown offered an opportunity to confront long-standing issues in the community and make ETHS a safer place for everyone. .
“We have kids at school who carry guns, and obviously Evanston has a bigger problem and the Chicagoland area has a bigger problem with gun safety, but that’s also why these kids feel they need to protect themselves at school,” Averbuch said. . “Is that even the reason why they bring weapons? We haven’t done any participatory research that I know of that’s really practical with these children.
According to Terri Lydon, a District 65 parent whose son will be a freshman at ETHS next year, the group spoke with former school board members who represented District 202 last time. a weapons detection system was proposed. These council members said the measure was not passed years ago due to concerns about the slow flow of students into the school and the building feeling “like a prison”, Lydon told the roundtable.
But both Averbuch and Lydon said modern weapons detection systems aren’t necessarily as invasive as metal detectors, and they don’t force people to slow down or empty their pockets as they cross paths. sensors. However, they stressed that their group simply wanted the council to study the effectiveness and viability of these detection systems.
“Our goal is to keep everyone who walks through the building safe – teachers, staff, all students,” Lydon said. “Every student deserves to be safe and to have what we hope is a more optimal learning environment because they feel safer at school. That’s our thing right now: just do some research so we can find out if it will help you.
Both parents also said one of their goals was to prevent students from being expelled for bringing weapons to school. With a weapons detection system, hopefully no student will feel the need or desire to carry a gun in their backpack, and they can avoid the repercussions of doing so, according to Averbuch.
A few days after the lockdown, Averbuch emailed District 202 School Board Chair Pat Savage-Williams, asking for more information on how the district would handle gun issues and work to reduce any future problems. Savage-Williams responded with a note that the council was considering solutions best suited to the broader community, but she refrained from providing specifics.
Research shows that students who experience trauma from threats of school violence like the December lockdown are more likely to develop anxiety, depression and other mental disorders in response to that trauma. According to Lydon and Averbuch, the parents who constructed the petition most want to avoid a situation where students become numb to violence or numb to an unhealthy environment.
“The mental health effects that we are seeing from a prolonged pandemic – social isolation, withdrawal from the positive things people can engage in in their lives – have undoubtedly had a really deleterious impact on health. people’s mental health, the sense of well-being,” said Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. “And I think as far as we can tell, the population that seems to be feeling these impacts most intensely are adolescents and young adults, and it’s that exact population that’s also the same population that’s at high risk of involvement in things like gun violence.”