School District asks Village to help with student safety
The Hazel Crest School District 152 ½ is asking the Village of Hazel Crest for assistance in keeping the students and schools safe after two incidents at the Jesse White Learning Academy in early January.
The Hazel Crest School District 152 ½ encompasses parts of Hazel Crest, East Hazel Crest, Harvey and Markham. There are approximately 450 students who attend the Jesse White Learning Academy. At a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 24th, there was representation from the Village of Markham, Hazel Crest, as well as Illinois State Representative Will Davis, school board members and other community partners.
“We’re looking for a strong partnership that will lead towards favorable outcomes on the behalf of children. In this case, reduction in crime and safe passage for our children, making certain that the community at large feels safe,” said Dean Barnett, President of Hazel Crest School District 152 ½.
Barnett said the School District will use resources to ensure that the students and staff are safe. Barnett believes a partnership that includes everyone in local is the key to keeping everyone in the community safe. Barnett added it will require heavy lifting.
The next step will be community school meetings. The first will take place at the Jesse White Learning Academy and the next meeting will take place at the Barack Obama Learning Academy, in Markham. The goal is to implement resources that the School District can control, from Ceasefire to providing safe passage for the students.
“We want those parents to know, from the point they leave, once they open that door and step out of the door, they will be safe. The children are in our hands and we will make sure they are safe, until they cross the threshold of their respective schools, and as they travel back home, they should have that same level of expectation of being safe, that they will have the opportunity to grow up and they will not be murdered,” Barnett said.
Barnett has vowed to continue to be committed to having conversations with those responsible for Public Safety.
Dr. Kenneth Spells, Superintendent of Hazel Crest School District 152 ½, sent a letter home to families and a letter to the staff of the school. In the letter to the parents, Spells wrote: “We held a safety meeting with all the students and staff informing them of what to do in the event this happens again … While we recognize we cannot control outside forces, we will continue to monitor students walking home and continue to support our students with ways to help keep them safe.”
Spells has been having conversations with one of the school’s parent groups, Donuts to Dads. Spells wants to be proactive to ensure nothing happens to the students. Spells added that whatever he has asked the Village President and local law enforcement for, he has received.
“We’re all at the table, we all want to make sure the students are safe,” Spells said. “We want to take a stressor off our kids, we want them to be more concerned about getting into college than getting home.”
Village of Hazel Crest President Vernard Alsberry said the Village will increase the police presence at the school during classes, as well as when there are evening activities. He said there also is an increased police presence in the community, which is known as Hazel Crest Proper. Alsberry did acknowledge there has been an increase in crime in the South Suburbs.
“Hazel Crest Police are very active, not only being present, but following up on issues that happen in the community,” he said, adding that the Village wants to partner with the schools to ensure there are activities for the young people who live there. “We take the safety, of our students and citizens in Hazel Crest very seriously, we know it’s important and we continue to make sure our community is a safe place to live and a place where people want to live.”
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