D65 board talks emergency preparedness procedures


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Ave. During Monday’s meeting, district administrators addressed recent threats to school safety with a presentation on emergency response procedures.

Olivia Alexander, Senior Staffer

Content Warning: This story contains mentions of gun violence.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 administrators led an overview of the district’s emergency response procedures during Monday’s board of education meeting. 

The update came following a Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan and a shooting threat at D65’s Haven Middle School late last week.

“There’s a copycat culture that exists, and we will take every single incident seriously and do whatever we can to keep our students and our staff and our family safe,” Superintendent Devon Horton said. “It’s important that we talk about our process on how we go about handling these situations when they do arrive.” 

Elijah Palmer, District 65’s dean of culture and climate, said the district prides itself on focusing on restorative practices, especially as they relate to crisis prevention. 

Palmer said his goal is to emphasize safety by creating strong relationships within the school and ensuring the district’s overall culture is empathetic and nurturing. If students are part of a welcoming environment at school, he said the district will see more positive outcomes during a crisis. 

“Safety doesn’t occur until we know that the environment is nurturing and empathetic,” Palmer said.

District 65 has individual school crisis management teams, and each must submit an emergency plan within the first month of school, Palmer said. Every school completes five drills annually, including fire, bus evacuation and shelter-in-place drills. Schools must conduct active shooter drills within the first semester of each year. 

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Andalib Khelghati then spoke about the district’s safety team. In the event of an emergency that requires coordination between departments or with the Evanston Police Department, the team of administrators will step in.

Not every incident will require the districtwide approach, Khelghati said. Every school also has an internal crisis team to handle incidents like power outages and building-related concerns. 

District 65 Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Terrance Little said the district’s critical incident team is a resource to support community members’ emotional and psychological well-being. The team of nine consists of a social worker, a psychologist, an administrator, counselors and mental health practitioners, Little said. It also includes alternates in case of absences.

The group provides support before, during and after emergencies. When requested by school leaders, it provides care for needs as individual as a family death, Little said. The team can provide services in students’ homes when needed and seeks to support people of all roles within the district.

“We’re looking at it from a holistic approach,” Little said. “We are not only addressing the needs of our families inside the school, (but) we also are able to have outreach in the community where we can go to the homes and provide those services.”

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Twitter: @oliviagalex

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