Greetings Grayslake 127 families,
The school year has already gotten off to a fantastic start, and we could not be happier to have students back in our buildings! Over the summer, the district spent time reviewing security policies and practices, because the safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. I would like to review with you some of our current practices and discuss how we are improving safety and security in the 2022/23 school year.
For many years, each school has employed a School Resource Officer (SRO) to serve in buildings as their primary duty every day. These Grayslake Police Officers work collaboratively with our Student Support Teams consisting of Deans, School Counselors, Social Workers, and School Psychologists. In addition to providing security for the buildings, we value these officers’ expertise and ability to form relationships with staff and students. The district also employs numerous security personnel, who keep a watchful eye over the people in our care.
District 127 has also made a significant investment in security infrastructure and communication systems. For example, a robust camera system allows immediate visual access to all parts of the school buildings for our administration and school security personnel. More changes and improvements are coming shortly, and we will provide more information about these enhancements as they are completed.
As you know, schools perform various required safety drills including fire, bus evacuation, and severe weather. In addition, all schools conduct lockdown drills during which students and staff practice emergency procedures, and each drill is evaluated for improvements. Following research into current best practices, we will update our armed intruder response protocols this year.
ALICE is a system utilized in thousands of school districts across the country, including many surrounding elementary and high school districts. ALICE stands for:
ALERT: Get the word out that a threat exists.
LOCKDOWN: Secure a place to stay as much as possible as a starting point to buy time. May include barricading an entryway.
INFORM: Give constant, real-time information throughout the building using all available technology.
COUNTER: This is a last resort. If evacuation is not an option, countering may be as simple as creating a distraction to allow opportunities to escape.
EVACUATE: The goal is to move students out of the danger zone. It’s important to be prepared to escape.
In our first semester training with staff and students, we will focus on awareness and response strategies such as situational awareness, evacuation, and barricading options. In other words, based on the situation and information available, students and staff will have options to remove themselves from danger or to barricade an area to keep an intruder from entering. These principles will empower staff and students to make informed decisions should an attack occur.
ALICE training does include strategies for “countering,” or actions that create noise, movement, distance, and distraction with the intent of reducing an intruder’s ability to shoot accurately. Any consideration of these strategies will be taken with great care because we want to keep students informed and prepared without causing additional emotional distress. At this time, we will focus our training with students on situational awareness, evacuation, and barricading. Training involving any countering strategies will be communicated with families far in advance, and students will have multiple options for participation.
Again, we are mindful of how highly emotional this topic can be, and each person will have a different reaction. As such, we want to ensure that our students, families, and staff know the following about any upcoming student safety trainings:
They do not include any simulations that mimic an actual armed intruder incident or active shooter event,
Drills are announced in advance to all school personnel and students before they begin,
Includes and involves school personnel, including school-based mental health professionals,
Includes trauma-informed approaches to address the concerns and well-being of students and school personnel,
Permits students to ask questions related to it, and,
Parents can opt students out of training by contacting the Associate Principal for Student Services in your building.
Our training schedule will include the following:
Friday September 2, 2022 will be an EARLY RELEASE DAY for students. Students attend school in the morning, and staff will engage in ALICE training in the afternoon. Click HERE for the early release bell schedule. Reminders will come from our buildings as the date approaches.
During the week of September 19, all students will view an introduction to ALICE principles during the school day. Specific dates and periods will be provided to families in advance.
During the week of September 26, buildings will conduct an Enhanced Lockdown drill. By law, school districts must conduct a safety drill within the first 90 days of school. This drill will focus on the evacuation and barricading techniques discussed with students. Countering strategies will not be included in this drill.
We will spend time in the first semester evaluating this process, and we will provide feedback and any scheduling updates to families. In the meantime, we ask that you encourage your students to wear their lanyards with IDs each day. Staff will be doing the same, as this helps school personnel immediately identify who is supposed to be in our buildings and who is not.
Furthermore, if you are aware of someone in distress, Text-A-Tip is a 24/7 anonymous text-communication system for youth needing immediate mental health assistance for themselves or a friend. You can send a message through the "Lake County Help" app to a dedicated number and receive an immediate response from a licensed clinician while remaining completely anonymous. For more information, please visit the Text-A-Tip website: https://www.lakecountyil.gov/3437/Text-A-Tip
In closing, we value the safety and security of the people in our buildings as our #1 priority. We look forward to continuing this conversation throughout the school year.
Mikkel Storaasli, Ed.D
Superintendent, Grayslake High School District 127