The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

Secure and Teach reviewed

Oak Park and River Forest High School will focus on improving communication during crisis situations following a review of the back-to-back Secure and Teach incidents that took place on Feb. 14.

The results of the internal review were presented by Superintendent Greg Johnson at the March 21 school board meeting. 

Shortly before noon on Feb. 14, the district identified “several” posts on SnapChat threatening the school, according to a written summary of the district’s review in the Board Highlights newsletter. To allow school security and the Oak Park Police Department to conduct an investigation, Principal Lynda Parker called a Secure and Teach at 11:58 a.m. 

A Secure and Teach, formerly known as a soft lockdown, means that classes may proceed normally, but no one may leave classrooms. 

Police sent a car to the school building, conducted sweeps and determined that the threats were fake. Parker ended the Secure and Teach at 12:29 p.m.

At about the same time, the FBI identified the student who made the threats after receiving an alert from SnapChat, according to the newsletter. The FBI notified police, who found the student. The student did not have any weapons. 

After the first Secure and Teach, a series of miscommunications took place, the review found. First, some students in the cafeteria did not hear the announcement over the public address PA system that the Secure and Teach had ended. When other students entered for their lunch periods, they became concerned and left through the exterior doors to the mall. 

This situation escalated when “an employee looking out onto the mall from the third floor saw students leaving the cafeteria, was worried something was wrong and called security, fearing that there had been shots fired outside the school on the mall,” according to the review. 

Johnson emphasized that police and school staff knew that no shots were fired because they were standing in the mall. However, following police protocols, they called a second Secure and Teach, which lasted from 12:39 to 1:30 p.m. Police then began an investigation of the building with a “full, armed response” during that time, causing fear and confusion among some who witnessed it. 

“As those who care and love the people in this building, any time something like this occurs it is incredibly upsetting,” Johnson said. 

The review also outlined plans for improvement. First, “internal communication channels” need to be fixed to ensure that information gets to the right people quickly. Second, more training and communication about emergency protocols is needed for students, parents, staff and police. 

So far, Johnson reported that the district trained staff on emergency responses at the March 12 faculty meeting, planned and held a training in the school building for the Oak Park Police Department and updated its Incident Command Structure.

“We didn’t have consistent systems, specifically for communication when an event is unfolding that is being shared in real time, and that could lead to a lot of panic,” said David Narain, assistant principal of operations at OPRF, in an interview. “We are now since looking at a lot of different ways to quicken our communication internally, to keep all parties informed and calm.” 

The security team is also looking into “additional technologies such as communication systems that would allow us to possibly text teachers real time updates and also provide alerts to parents and possibly students,” said Narain. 

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