On Oct. 7, the District 65 School Board considered a proposed resolution to support Evanston Township High School’s request to establish a safe school zone around the high school through an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Evanston. Claudia Garrison, a member of both the District 65 School Board and the City/School Liaison Committee, presented the proposed resolution. She said ETHS officials asked for District 65’s support.
ETHS administrators and School Board members have asked City Council to enter into an intergovernmental agreement that would establish a safe school zone around the perimeter of the high school. The proposed zone would extend to the far side of the sidewalks across the streets around the school. If established, Evanston police could ask people in the zone to leave, and if they failed to do so, they could be arrested for criminal trespass.
ETHS officials have said the zone is necessary because at times gangs have waited in prey outside the high school for students leaving the building, creating a safety issue. Adjacent property owners say the proposed safe school zone would infringe on their rights. Aldermen Delores Homes, 5th Ward, and Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, both of whose wards would be affected, have objected to the measure, expressing concerns that it would lead to racial profiling.
The District 65 School Board tweaked the language of the proposed resolution of support, but did not question the need for the measure to protect the safety of students. Candance Chow, a member of both the District 65 School Board and the City/School Liaison Committee, said the most striking statistic she heard was that only 58 percent of ETHS students who responded in a recent survey said they felt safe around the outside of ETHS. "To me, that’s a call to action," she said.
District 65 Board members did express concerns, though, about the manner in which the safe school zone would be enforced. Ms. Chow said there appeared to be a commitment at the City/School Liaison Committee level that the enforcement measures would be "used sparingly, judiciously and narrowly." Board members Katie Bailey and Richard Rykhus both voiced support for enforcing the measure sparingly, judiciously and narrowly. By consensus, Board members asked that this be presented as their position to the City/School Liaison Committee.
The Board unanimously adopted a resolution stating in part, "We support District 202’s Safe School Zone Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Evanston to establish a safe school zone as an important tool in ensuring the safety of all students."
The resolution also encouraged further collaboration with the City to secure the school safety for all children.