Gun incident triggers concern

Around 12:19 p.m. on May 3, one of OPRF’s deans received a call from the Oak Park Police Department (OPPD). The call was “to alert us that they had received a tip that earlier that morning, an OPRF student was involved in an argument at home,” a May 10 statement from Superintendent Greg Johnson noted. The student had potentially left the home carrying a handgun. The concern escalated when the OPPD received another tip around 12:30 p.m. informing them the student may have been in close proximity to the school.

The statement confirms the OPPD immediately mobilized outside of campus, swiftly located and arrested the individual, and took possession of his backpack, in which the handgun was concealed. Though a hard lockdown was not initiated, OPRF’s campus security team began mobilizing for one, “which included ensuring we had personnel in place managing the cafeteria and hallways as a passing period was imminent,” the statement reads.

“As a result of OPPD’s immediate action,” Johnson’s statement read, “We canceled our plans for a lockdown.” The statement also confirms there was an OPPD officer already in the building “for an unrelated, non-emergency reason” who remained in communication with OPRF’s security personnel.

“We are extremely thankful to the Oak Park Police Department for their swift action,” wrote Principal Lynda Parker in a May 3 statement to OPRF students and parents. “There is no place for this activity at OPRF, and the student will be subject to school board policy and the appropriate laws that govern weapons on school grounds … everyone is safe, and school operations were not interrupted.”

This is not the first major incident reported on campus this semester. On March 4, an altercation occurred in which two OPRF students were struck with an “unconfirmed object,” a statement from Johnson reads. “Due to uncertain and conflicting accounts of the incident from those involved, coupled with a lack of evidence to support this claim (about the object), this report is, in fact, unconfirmed,” the statement read.

“As we were gathering reports of the incident, the students involved were swiftly identified, and we learned that they either had left the building, or were with our staff in our offices. As a result, we are confident the building was secure, students and staff were safe, and there was no need for more drastic measures such as locking the school down.”

Johnson did not respond to a request for comment regarding the incidents.

In an interview with Trapeze, Parker noted that over the past two months there has been no confirmation of whether the object was a gun. “We’ve never seen anything, confiscated anything … it looked like it could have been, and it was different from different people reporting,” she said.

Two times a year, OPRF is mandated by the state of Illinois to practice fire evacuation, shelter-in-place, and soft and hard lockdown drills. Although the administration was mobilized for a lockdown May 3, sophomore Sam Mendez feels that the lack of lockdown procedure March 4 shows it is “prioritizing public image over the actual safety of the students … I definitely feel way less safer (in the building) than I did at the start of the school year.”

The two incidents also point to a potential need for increased security presence around OPRF. On May 6, another incident occurred in which a student drew racist and anti-semetic graffiti in a school bathroom. Currently, OPRF has only 38 campus safety officers listed on its website, with 45 total bathrooms in the school.

“We have coverage on all floors of our security people, and we bring in temporary security when people are out,” Parker said. “We don’t have yet the physical capabilities of having a person stand at every single washroom.”

“We have put out a hiring for that,” Parker said when asked whether the administration had considered hiring more campus safety officers. “One of the issues that we’ve run up against is filling those positions … since the pandemic, it’s been very difficult.”