In response to an NBC5 Investigates report raising questions over the emergency and safety plans for Chicago Public Schools, school officials this week gave NBC Chicago an exclusive look inside its Student Safety Center, along with a look at detailed and individual security plans for every Chicago public school.
Our report revealed that both the Illinois State Board of Education and members of the Chicago Teachers Union said they had seen no evidence of any emergency plans for any of Chicago’s schools. They're plans that are required by state law to be updated each year, with reports on those plans filed annually with the I.S.B.E.
Immediately following that report, CPS officials contacted NBC5 Investigates to extend an invitation to see the emergency plans, which to date have been kept confidential, according to the officials, because of overriding concerns of security and privacy.
NBC Chicago was not allowed to photograph particular plans, but officials at CPS' Office of School Safety and Security did show examples of individual plans, including minute details for every school.
Plans are updated constantly, according to Kendall Perry, Manager of Field Services for the district’s safety office, and include information as general as floor plans and locations of fire alarms and exits and as specific as gang affiliations. The plans also detail the pecking-order and emergency assignments of administrators and access-control details for doors -- including who specifically is responsible and accountable for each.
"It’s so important that every plan has its own unique custom-designed plan," said Jadine Chou, the district's Chief Safety and Security Officer. "Every school has its own circumstances, layout, [and] blueprint, and we have to make sure that’s all factored in, when we make these plans."
The system also includes the schedule for various state-mandated emergency drills, and -- upon examination -- it did indeed appear that those drills are being performed annually and on schedule.
As NBC5 Investigates previously reported, CPS has failed to report those drills to the state board of education as required by state law. But Chou insisted that CPS has been in constant contact with officials at I.S.B.E. and that the final reporting is being corrected.
"We’ve done our annual updating of our plans," Chou said. "We have conducted our safety drills. We are now working with I.S.B.E. to make sure we’ve completed the forms that close that out."
In addition to viewing specific emergency plans, NBC5 Investigates was allowed brief access into the CPS' Student Safety Center, where several people constantly monitor more than 8,000 cameras, placed in and around the 300+ Chicago public schools.
Chou said security personnel can zoom in on a single hallway at a single school or even take control of any of the hundreds of pod cameras operated by the Chicago Police Department.