School Safety and Security
Niles ESD 71 is committed to providing a safe and secure teaching and learning environment for all students and staff. Our comprehensive approach to safety and security includes protocols, programs, and policies on which we actively train staff to keep our school community and campus safe before, during, and after school hours.
School Crisis Response Plan
The District has a comprehensive school crisis response plan to ensure that we are both taking precautions to prevent or prepare for potential crises, as well as to guide a timely and effective response and recovery should one occur. This plan is based on best practices in school safety. It was reviewed by our District Safety and Security Committee on October 3, 2023, and will be updated annually by the District with guidance from local law enforcement and other first responders.
Please note: We do not make this document available to the public to keep those with ill-intent from misusing the information.
Parent and Public Communications
The district is committed to providing timely and accurate information to our parents in a crisis situation. However, our top priority during any potential threat or emergency situation is to keep our school, students and staff safe and implement our safety protocols. As a result, communications may sometimes be slightly delayed for appropriate reasons.
The district has the capability to quickly notify parents of a threat or emergency situation through our SwiftReach system using text, email and voicemail—similar to messages sent during an inclement weather event.
We developed a draft communications policy/checklist that we will follow immediately here. This protocol will be reviewed at our next board and safety and security committee meetings for additional feedback. Please contact the superintendent if you have additional input and/or questions.
Please contact the office promptly if any of your contact information changes. You may also contact the office at any time to verify that we have the most updated contact information for your family.
While we understand that waiting for specific information is difficult, to avoid interfering with an active investigation, the district may not immediately release specific information about a potential threat. It can take time for district and school personnel to gather and confirm facts with law enforcement officials and/or first responders. We will always do our best to communicate accurate information as soon as we can.
Whole School Safety Framework
School safety encompasses more than just physical safety. Students must feel welcome, emotionally safe, and have confidence that school staff will be there for them when needed and will listen to and act on their concerns, as appropriate.
Several years ago, the district adopted and implemented a research-based social emotional learning program called Second Step. This is a comprehensive social-emotional learning (SEL) program designed to help children and adolescents develop the skills they need to thrive in school, relationships, and life. We are focused on providing support for students who may be going through extra challenges through interventions, counseling, programming and other customized supports to meet their specific, individual needs.
Following a significant threat or crisis, to support mental health and well-being, the district may offer appropriate trauma or counseling resources to students and staff on an as-needed basis.
We maintain strict access control measures to ensure that only authorized individuals are permitted inside our school building. This includes:
- Restricted door access: At the main entrance, visitors must pass through two locked and remotely operated doors to gain entry to the school office. We monitor and record the names of visitors at the entrance for sporting and other after school events.
- Badging staff and visitors: All staff and visitors are required to wear badges that identify them as authorized personnel. Upon entering a district building, visitors will be asked to present an ID, which will be scanned and entered into our system. The Raptor system instantly screens each visitor's government-issued ID card against the sex offender registry. Once entry is approved, Raptor will issue a badge that includes a photo, the name of the visitor, time, date, and purpose or destination of the visit.
- State-of-the-art camera system: The district operates a system that includes 26 high-resolution cameras inside the building and five high-resolution cameras outside. When the addition is completed (scheduled for Fall 2024), there will be six additional cameras inside the building and four outside. Many of these cameras have multiple lenses to expand their reach.
- Upgraded communication systems: The district recently upgraded our intercom, and phone communications systems to enhance our building-wide communication abilities and make it easier for staff to access school support personnel in a threat or emergency.
We conduct fingerprint-based criminal background checks and cross-referencing of state and national sexual and violent offender registries as a part of our pre-employment process.
The district completes a number of state-mandated annual safety drills to prepare our students and staff for potential building and bus evacuations and severe weather. They include fire evacuation drills (one of which is supervised by the Niles Fire Department) and a tornado drill, as well as a law enforcement drill (supervised by the Niles Police Department) to address an active shooter scenario that must be done when students and staff are present.
As required by Illinois Public Act 102-0395, the District will provide sufficient information and notification to parents and guardians in advance of any lockdown drill that involves the participation of students. These types of drills will be announced in advance and any parent/guardian may elect to exclude their child from participating in a drill for any reason by contacting the building principal.
District 71 has a Safety and Security Committee that meets at least annually to discuss and prioritize initiatives to protect our school community. Members include Board of Education members, administration, staff, parents, and community partners.
Minutes from the most recent Committee meeting, held on October 3, 2023, are available here.
Please note: Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed at these Committee meetings, minutes have been redacted as appropriate and participation is limited to Committee members to ensure that information about our safety plans is kept confidential.
A school lockdown is most often a precautionary measure initiated to keep students safe while district staff and law enforcement officials investigate a reported threat. A lockdown is not necessarily an indication that our school, students or staff are in danger.
Depending on the circumstances, District leaders may opt to implement an “secure and teach” soft lockdown in which teachers continue instruction and ensure students are safe as a potential threat is investigated. In an active threat situation, a lockdown would also include protective measure turning off the lights and getting student out of the line of sight from windows.
To help school staff and law enforcement do their work, please do not call or go to the school during a lockdown unless asked to do so. Similarly, please do not text or call your student’s cell phone during a lockdown. Cell phone use could distract a student from hearing or following directions from school staff, law enforcement or first responders, and, in the event of an active threat, could identify your student’s location.
The Niles Police Department has assigned a dedicated school resource officer (SRO) to support the three school districts in our community in providing a safe and secure environment.
The School Resource Officer serves as a liaison between district leaders and the Police Department to prevent, identify and/or investigate possible criminal activity or safety threats to our school, student and staff.
Everyone should be on the lookout for worrisome behaviors such as threats of harm to oneself or others. Please check in regularly with your child on how they’re doing. Since we know social media can be both helpful and harmful, be aware of how and with whom your children are engaging on social media.
We know that concerning social media action can hit a flashpoint very quickly and school staff are on the lookout for concerning, open-source social media posts.
If you are aware of content on social media that could present a threat to our school, students or staff, please contact the school principal immediately with as much information as possible and collect screen shots to share. If it is after school hours, please submit the information as soon as possible to the school safety hotline.
All of our students and staff are trained on the ALiCE procedures annually. ALICE is an acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It is a set of guidelines designed to help individuals, organizations, and communities prepare for and respond to active shooter incidents. You can view a presentation about the program here.
Faculty and staff must comply with district policies on ethics and technology use and attend annual training regarding the parameters of appropriate conduct with minor students during and outside of the school day, including a teacher’s use of social media, as well as other topics related to maintaining a safe school environment.
All staff members are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), and we provide annual training to all staff on this responsibility.
SAFETY CONCERN? USE OUR SCHOOL SAFETY HOTLINE
Send an anonymous tip to our school safety hotline to tell district safety staff about threats, bullying, drugs, weapons, concerns about student well-being, and any other safety problem.