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‘This is all about relationships’: How ETHS leaders approach school safety | #hacking | #aihp

Two longtime mainstays on the Evanston Township High School staff, Loyce Spells and Anthony King, are taking on new roles in the area of safety and security in the upcoming school year.

Spells, a school resource officer with the Evanston Police Department, will drop his police duties to become director of safety at the high school. His predecessor, Matthew Driscoll, is also taking on a new job as director of truancy and residency, Spells said.

Meanwhile, King will move from student services department co-chair to the newly created position of restorative practices coordinator.

“Early prevention I think is really key,” Spells said. “This is all about relationships. Violence prevention, crime prevention is about relationships, school violence is about relationships, active shooters is about relationships and addressing trauma. … I really believe that this is a public health issue.”

School Resource Officers Loyce Spells (left) and Grace Carmichael (right) talk to the board on March 13 alongside EPD Chief Schenita Stewart. Credit: ETHS YouTube

Spells, King and other city leaders, including ETHS Superintendent Marcus Campbell and Evanston Police Chief Schenita Stewart, exchanged ideas for safety strategies during a community meeting Tuesday night, May 23, at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

This reshuffling of safety and security resources at ETHS comes at a time of heightened community concern in Evanston about violence, particularly among young people. Over the past two school years, students have brought guns to the high school on multiple occasions. A 13-year-old Chute Middle School student was also found with a loaded handgun at school in February, and an 8-year-old brought a handgun magazine to Lincolnwood Elementary in April. Outside of the public schools, 18-year-old Jacquis Irby was killed in a shooting at Clark Street Beach last month.

Right now, the high school, in partnership with the city’s Youth and Young Adult division and the Evanston Police Department, is exploring a new policy introduced in Illinois called “Handle With Care,” according to Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson, who was also present at Tuesday night’s gathering. Under that policy, ETHS would have an agreement with the city, where a city staff member or police officer could call the school and simply say a name and “handle with care” as a heads-up when a particular student has experienced a traumatic situation and may need extra support or attention.

Alert to focus on vulnerability

For the sake of confidentiality and the student’s privacy, the school would not be informed about specifics of the incident, Thompson said, but only given an alert to be aware that a student might be particularly vulnerable on a certain day.

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