Town Heals and Remembers

Chicago Area Schools Increase Security As Classes Resume

Officers stationed outside Riverside schools

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Police officers posted outside schools in west suburban Riverside. (Published Monday, Dec 17, 2012)

    Chicago area schools are taking a second look at their security measures as students returned to school Monday after Friday's shooting in Connecticut.

    The police department in west suburban Riverside will staff uniformed officers outside schools all week in response to numerous calls to the town's police chief from worried families. Police say the officers are meant to re-assure parents and answer any questions they have about safety plans.

    "Being a smaller town, Littleton, Colorado and this one woke every town up to these kind of things, so we all train. Money's tight everywhere, so what we do is, small towns train with other small towns around us," Riverside Lt. Bill Legg said.

    Some of the parents objected to the police prescence, but others were happy to see it.

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    "I'm nervous about it, but I've got to keep faith and keep going. Like 9-11 we've got to keep moving," Riverside parent Julie O'Brien said.

    "I tend to think that they're random, and there's only so much you can do. Unless the school would have put bulletproof glass in or something, I'm not really sure what else ... I'm not going to not take my kid to school," parent John Scarpelli said.

    Many schools across the state, including Chicago, already have safety plans in place. Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the weekend reminded families of the plan and called on all adults in the schools -- from principals to custodians to library staff -- to review those plans to keep students safe in any emergency. 

    "I've asked, based on recent events obviously in Connecticut, that we review and refresh those plans to make sure every adult, every principal, every teacher knows of those plans," Emanuel said.

    Chicago Public Schools' safety and security officer, Jadine Chou, sent an email to principals on Friday which included a request that each school perform its annual emergency drill if it hasn't already done so.

    School districts are making counselors available and have sent home letters to parents, giving them tips on how to handle their children's questions.

    Letters from the Buffalo Grove and Long Grove school districts recommends limiting media exposure and suggests starting a conversation by asking kids what they already know and gently correct any information that might not be accurate.

    In a message sent to parents Sunday from District 303, Supt. Dr. Donald Schlomann assured them all security measures will be reviewed and prevention remains a top priority.

    "Starting Monday our student support teams will review student connections with school, friends, and family," the letter reads. "The goal is to identify students who might be struggling and then provide them with the assistance they need long before they harm themselves, or others."