Up until now, all I knew about school violence was from reports in the newspaper. Today, while at a meeting in a school building, an announcement came over the PA system that we were in a Code White. All the doors were to be locked and no one was to leave.
I visit schools fairly often, and lately have noticed signs of increasing security. Visitor passes. Notices about color code alerts. Police presentations to parent groups about gang activity. Doors locked where they weren’t locked before.
And lately, in this area at least, violence seems to be especially targeting schools. So far this year, 20 school children have been killed in gun violence. In April alone, threats have been received at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia, South Suburban College in South Holland, St. Xavier University in Morgan Park, (prompting more school closings for the surrounding Mother McAuley High School, Brother Rice High School, Queen of Martyrs Elementary School and Evergreen Park Southwest Elementary), Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Malcolm X College on the West Side, and St. Charles North High School in the western suburbs.
All of this is taking place against the backdrop of shootings at Columbine High School in April 1999, Virginia Tech in April of last year, and the five deaths last month at Northern Illinois University.
Our group was eventually permitted to leave the building under escort, but not without some worrisome moments. Some of our group still had pre-school children in a daycare area of the school who continued to be held in lockdown.