District 202 Board of Education discusses well-being survey results, policing


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Evanston Township High School. The Evanston Township High School District 202 Board of Education discussed allowing the Evanston Police Department to access school cameras in case of emergencies Monday.

Rachel Schlueter, Reporter

Content warning: This article contains mentions of gun violence and sexual assault.

The Evanston Township High School District 202 Board of Education spoke Monday about involving police in school security efforts. 

In January, City Council approved an intergovernmental agreement between the City Council and District 202 to grant the Evanston Police Department access to over 500 ETHS surveillance cameras in the event of an emergency. The board is now considering the agreement but has not yet approved it.

ETHS School Resource Officer Loyce Spells said the IGA comes after a series of gun-related incidents at ETHS. This February, an ETHS student made a threat with a prop gun in a social media post. Last November, an ETHS student brought a loaded gun to school.  ETHS also went into lockdown in December 2021 after two guns were found at the school. 

Spells said granting EPD officers access to cameras could lead to faster responses during campus emergencies like school shootings. 

“My partner and I are the only school resource officers in this building of 65-acres plus, but keep in mind it’s three campuses as well,” Spells said. “Time is not always on our side.” 

Board member Gretchen Livingston suggested adding a mechanism in the IGA that would notify the Board of Education if EPD was granted access to security cameras. The board also proposed an amendment that would require Superintendent Marcus Campbell be notified immediately if the EPD was using the cameras.

Spells, ETHS’s other SRO Grace Carmichael, Evanston Police Chief Schenita Stewart and all board members voiced agreement to both proposals.

Board members said they would amend the IGA and aim to finalize the language by April. 

Stewart also discussed the importance of building a positive relationship between students and SROs. 

Board member Patricia Maunsell said students can associate SROs with police brutality. To make themselves more approachable, Spells and Carmichael said they’ve begun wearing business casual clothing rather than a traditional police uniform on Mondays through Thursdays. On Fridays, Spells and Carmichael sport jeans and ETHS spirit wear.

“We’re talking about crisis today, but that is a very small component to what we do every day,” Spells said. “We do relationship building. That is our goal. I prefer to speak with children about prom and homecoming.”

School Board Student Representative Nicole Yao said students say their learning space is “disrupted” by the presence of SROs. Spells responded to Yao, saying he wants to give students space and let them approach him.

The Board of Education also discussed results from ETHS’s mental health and well-being report for the 2021-2022 school year. 

According to the survey results, 32% of students reported not feeling stress related to the pandemic, up from 22% in the 2020-2021 school year. Additionally, 28% of students reported feeling worried about being socially isolated, down from 44% in the 2020-2021 school year. 

Associate Principal of Student Services Mia Lavizzo said these figures spoke to the resilience of students. 

“(The survey results) show our students are working to move beyond the adverse effects of the pandemic,” Lavizzo said.  

However, board members were still concerned over some statistics from the report. Livingston said she was concerned more than 15% of students reported being physically forced to engage in some type of sexual activity.

Lavizzo said ETHS recently secured grant money for a sexual assault awareness month initiative during April, which she said hoped could help address the issue. 

“That’s a really big number, and one that I hope we’re digging a little deeper into,” Livingston said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rschlueter26

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