Parker requests more security

Principal Lynda Parker presented the District 200 School Board with a request for 14 additional security guards during the Feb. 23 board meeting, citing concerns about leaving certain doors and hallways unattended and pointing out that if one security guard is not on the job for a day, all others have to be rearranged to fill the gap.

The written request to the board pointed out the number of fights that have taken place over the past three years. The fall semester of 2019 saw 47 fights, and the last two fall semesters in 2021 and 2022 saw 33 fights each year. Some of these fights garnered local media coverage, including a recent fight that left a security guard hospitalized. The request stated that reducing these numbers is the goal of hiring the extra positions.

In addition to the external doors, Parker pointed out “hotspots” within the school that need more surveillance, including congregational areas during passing periods, the single-person gender-neutral bathrooms (to keep them single-person) and the South Cafeteria.

The principal and her team made these determinations after a consultation with Cherylynn Jones Macleod, director of campus safety to “assess what she felt was needed for her staff,” Parker said, adding, “This request [the board] is receiving is actually speaking to her immediate needs.”

Each security guard position would cost about $48,400 “inclusive of benefits,” totaling $677,600 a year, according to the written request from Parker. The earliest the guards could be hired would be after spring break.

Board members pressed Parker with questions and alternative solutions, some suggesting that adding more cameras to the alarmed exit doors could quell the issue while reducing costs.

Board member Gina Harris pointed out that the goal of the school is to teach students more appropriate behaviors and asked, “Is bringing more people in, are they going to help them learn new behaviors, or are they just going to be reinforcements? I’m mindful of how that might feel for the students, to have additional people to observe them.”

Board members also argued that the cost exceeded what was appropriate for their staff budget, saying that a “cost neutral” option would be more likely for approval.

The decision remains up in the air for now. Parker plans to revisit the issue at the March 9 Special Board Meeting, according to the written request.