Team keeps students safe in District 86

A team of individuals from several departments work together to keep students in Hinsdale High School District 86 safe, security director Kevin Simpson told board members at their June 2 meeting.

“There are some unsung heroes that are involved,” Simpson said, pointing to deans and counselors. “They are all vital to our threat assessment teams. Our threat assessment teams are ahead of the curve of where I think most districts are.”

Simpson presented the security update in the wake of the May 24 Uvalde school shooting, when 19 students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Texas. It was the second deadliest shooting at a K-12 school in the United States since 2012, when 26 children and adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I don’t think there’s a school district in the country, board member, parent that hasn’t been impacted by what’s happened in Texas,” he said.

Simpson, former Hinsdale police chief, noted that in addition to the school resource officer who is a member of the Hinsdale Police Department, his team includes retired police officers who have an Illinois Retired Officer Concealed Carry permit and can be armed on school property.

“Right now, the way that we’re set up, we have officers that are already inside in addition to the SROs,” he said. “It’s not a question of when we’re going to go in or if we’re going to go in. We’re already in. I think that gives some people some peace of mind to know there are trained professionals that are already in the schools to address those situations.”

Cameras allow district personnel to monitor the hallways and a door access system allows them to control the movement of an intruder, Simpson said.

The command center at Hinsdale Central has two 65-inch screens that can show as many as 36 views from the 200 security cameras in around the high school. The cameras are monitored from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays when school is in session. Identical command centers exist at both campuses, Simpson confirmed.

Simpson told board members all school personnel, including teachers, watch for warning signs.

“Prevention is the most important part of this,” he said. “You hear in these news stories over and over again about the red flags that were missed. I think our team has been very cognizant of that.”

He also noted that access to the school is closely monitored, with “robust” visitor check-in procedures.

Simpson said the district reviews its plan annually and is in compliance with all drills required by the DuPage County Regional Office of Education.

“It’s unfortunate that no plan or no system that we have in place is foolproof,” he said, noting that students and staff have been trained in how to respond to a critical incident and that the “blue box pull stations” provide immediate communication with the police and fire departments and 911 dispatch center. His work with the ROE school safety task force connects him with resources to be on the cutting edge of keeping students safe.

He praised district leadership for creating a security department that serves as a model for much of DuPage County.

“I’ve had districts come to me to want to know how we set this up,” he said. “I think that speaks volumes of how we’ve established a foundation of what we do in D86 as far as safety and security.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean