After threats, school safety prioritized


Illustration by Hyun Park

Caroline Ohlandt and Jessie Norwood

Trigger warning: this story contains descriptions of gun violence and school shootings.

In another devastating incident of gun violence, two students were shot on Feb. 1 in an attack on South Education Center outside Minneapolis—a school for students with alternative learning needs—according to The New York Times. It occurred on the same day five people were injured in a shooting outside Rufus King High School in Milwaukee, marking the sixth and seventh school shootings since the beginning of 2022, EducationWeek reported.

The Minneapolis shooting resulted in the death of one student and the hospitalization of another, The New York Times reported. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz pushes for stricter gun laws to prevent other school shootings.

“We need action to get guns off the streets and prevent violent crime in the first place,” Waltz stated in a Twitter post. “We know that one young person will not come home to their family tonight. My heart breaks that a young life was lost as a result of the gunfire.”

Standing with schools to protect all students and prioritize communication with the community, District 225 invited families to receive frequent updates on the communication platform Remind, a Dec. 14 email from the communications department stated.

The app was introduced to the community after a series of threats before winter break, Superintendent Dr. Charles Johns said. In addition, the district has created new methods of receiving public input from the community, such as the use of ThoughtExchange, an online website that allows the community to share anonymous feedback about important topics, Johns explained.

“While we will continue to utilize our traditional forms of communication, Remind [and ThoughtExchange] will be used to expand our school district’s communication approach,” the email stated.

One of the events that motivated these changes occurred on Dec. 14 when the Glenview Police Department held a press conference stating a South student had posted a picture of a handgun on social media.

Although Glenview Police did not identify a direct threat toward South, they worked with school security to further evaluate the situation, Joel Reyes, District 225 Safety and Security Manager, explained. Additionally, security and police presence in the building was increased in order to ensure security.

“Any [threat] we find will be taken seriously,” Reyes said. “Our priority is always the safety of the students and staff.”

Students mainly received updates of the threats through emails from Interim Principal Dr. Rosanne Williamson and Johns. They encouraged all suspicious activity to be reported to Text-a-Tip.

However, South’s administration found it difficult to communicate with and reassure students about the threat as they had to maintain the privacy of the student in question, Williamson said. Any information the South administration may have had on the student making threats needed to remain confidential, she explained.

“Anything about a student’s personal or disciplinary record is private, protected information,” Williamson said.

Acknowledging the delicate balance of providing information to the community while respecting the privacy of the students involved, junior Harlan Warnsman believes South administration addressed the threat properly.

“It was just a very tricky situation because [the district was] also learning the information as it came in,” Warnsman said. “The administration dealt with the rumor mill that was spreading and tried to calm the students and parents down.” 

It is also important to consider the mental health issues that are often behind school shootings, English Teacher Thomas Kucharski said.

“As a country, we’re not very good at [helping kids with] mental health issues,” Kucharski said. “We are getting a little bit better from what I’ve seen in my career. [Mental health issues] that a long time ago would have been dismissed [are] now addressed much more carefully, both by parents and schools.”

Junior Drew Duffy believes shootings have become common due to easy access to guns. Stricter gun laws are essential to reducing gun violence, he explained.

“It’s outrageous that children need to be scared for their lives while getting an education in a developed, wealthy country in 2022,” Duffy said. “I agree people should be able to own guns with the second ammendment but we also must have reasonable limitations on it. People with mental illnesses should not be able to get their hands on guns.”

Increased safety can be achieved if people continue talking about shooting threats, Kucharski said. He highlighted how student activists made significant change after a shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018 killed 17 students and staff. Activists worked to prioritize gun laws to the forefront of the country’s mind; states—including Illinois—passed Red Flag laws, which allow family members or law enforcement to petition to remove someone’s gun if they pose a danger to themselves or others, Pew Trusts reported.

“Every few years, we have this moment where we say enough is enough, but we never get anywhere with it,” Kucharski said. “I hope [students] keep the issue [of gun control] in front of everybody because it’s really important.”