Security upgrades planned for public high schools

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The killings of 16 Chicago Public Schools students this year means security changes will occur at several city high schools.

A new camera system will be installed inside select high schools so security workers can see what goes on through the school bu

The killings of 16 Chicago Public Schools students this year means security changes will occur at several city high schools. A new camera system will be installed inside select high schools so security workers can see what goes on through the school building.

“Crane has a camera system that is being used by school administrators every day, but it is an older system with limited capabilities,” said Andres (cq) Durbak, officer for the Chicago Public Schools Office of School Safety and Security. “Right now we are preparing to have cameras installed inside and outside Crane High School so security personnel can see what goes on in and around the school.”

On the South Side, Dyett High School also is set to have its camera system upgraded.

“There is a camera system being installed at Dyett High School, which should be completed by the end of spring break,” Durbak said.

But not all schools will have a camera system, which Durbak said costs $230,000, installed like the one planned at Crane.

“Schools with high, violent incidents will get the cameras. Those schools include Corliss, Julian and Fenger [all on the South Side],” he added.

The shootings that have taken place have occurred outside the school, a place that is foreign territory to CPS security.

CPS security guards said their hands are tied when it comes to incidents occuring outside school grounds.

“Our job is to protect the students on school grounds. Once they leave school grounds it then becomes a Chicago police matter,” said Michael Johnson, a security guard at Fenger High School. “We would be putting our own lives in jeopardy if we leave schools ground and go down the street to break up a fight.”

He added that a greater police presence outside the school would help curb a lot of the shootings that take place off school grounds.

“All these shootings are taking place off school grounds but the school is blamed for not protecting the student when it’s out of our reach,” Johnson said. “A student would be hard pressed to get a weapon inside a school because security screens everyone who enters the building including the mail man.”

All high schools use metal detectors to screen students. Some schools have hand held detectors while others like Crane have walk through detectors commonly used at airports.

In the absence of cameras CPS relies on its 2,386 security staff to keep the students and staff safe. Durbak said the security staff includes 1,655 full-time employees and 660 off -duty Chicago police officers. And each school, depending on size, has between two and 10 security guards assigned to them.

Besides students, teachers also at risk. Marilyn Stewart, president of the Chicago Teachers Union who also is a former teacher, said teachers are experiencing a lot of verbal abuse by students.

“If a student curses at a teacher that’s verbal abuse. And if a student should physically threaten a teacher, that’s assault. But you don’t hear about it because teachers are often encouraged by the school to file an incident report and not a police report,” Stewart said. “Our children are crying for help and many students come to school with emotional and psychology problems stemming from home.”

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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