The task of providing security for the Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) during the current summer school session has proved quite draining for the Forest Park Police Department, officials say.
According to Police Chief James Ryan, the department has needed to send roughly 5 or 6 officers each day to the school around dismissal time at 1:55 p.m. both to prevent violence and to ensure traffic safety as the approximately 1,000 kids who attend summer school begin their walk home.
“We’re used to 100 kids [at the school], but now we’re dealing with 1,000 problem kids,” he said. According to Ryan, Forest Park Police were not notified that the Proviso Township High School District would be holding summer classes in town until June 12, the day summer school began. The academy is located at Roosevelt Road and First Avenue.
Since students from both Proviso East and Proviso West attend summer school, Ryan said, factions that don’t typically interact are thrown together, leading to further tension that police must diffuse before violence erupts.
The problem was exemplified by an incident which occurred last Wednesday. A female school faculty member told police that she was attacked by two students after attempting to stop them for violating school rules by smoking on school grounds.
According to a police report, the students, Antonio Young, 18, of Bellwood, and a younger relative who was not named because he is a juvenile, first ignored the faculty member and walked away but then became verbally abusive when she insisted that they stop.
When she threatened to call security and raised her hand-held radio, the younger of the pair struck her across the chest and then struck her right arm to prevent her from using the radio. Young then approached, pushing her and grabbing her left arm.
The woman, who sustained injuries to her left hand and right arm, told police that she “did not understand why they became physical when they could have just run away.”
After the altercation, Forest Park police arrived for their daily patrol of the school at dismissal time, to find the younger suspect running away from a school security guard. After apprehending the student, the guard asked Forest Park Sgt. Michael Murphy to detain him while he tried to stop the other youth from escaping.
When Murphy asked the younger student to walk with him toward the school’s entrance, the youth began to swear at Murphy and threaten bodily harm. A crowd had by then assembled, with one member screaming “Gangster! Gangster!” according to the police report filed by Murphy.
The two suspects, police say, are self-admitted members of the Gangster Disciples street gang. The younger student had GDN, standing for Gangster Disciple Nation, written on his forearm at the time of the incident.
Both were eventually arrested and charged with aggravated battery to a school faculty member, and the younger suspect, whose case will be heard by Cook County Juvenile Authorities, was also charged with resisting a police officer.
The following day, Ryan said, he and three police lieutenants reported to the academy at dismissal time. He said the department has mostly relied on its administrators and auxiliary officers to supervise the school at dismissal time in order not to “deplete the officers on the shift by having everyone on the outskirts of town.”
Proviso officials said that the incident on Wednesday was being handled by Forest Park Police and therefore they could not comment extensively. “[Proviso Township High School] District 209 officials have not received a formal report from the Forest Park police. The district will release further information about the incident as it is learned,” read a statement sent by Dist. 209 Communications Director Angela McDaniel.
“As part of District 209’s disciplinary policy and given that summer school is a privilege, we take seriously issues involving misconduct and misbehavior. Until a formal report is obtained from the Forest Park Police Department, school officials will adhere strictly to its disciplinary policies,” it continued.
McDaniel said she was unable to confirm when the district had notified police that summer school would be held at PMSA by press-time because Kyle Hastings, the district’s director of auxiliary programs who oversees the summer school, was out of the office. Hastings is also the Mayor of Orland Hills.
Ryan said that he does not believe the summer school students have contributed to Forest Park’s recent gang-related issues or will add to these problems in the future.
“There aren’t many kids there from Forest Park. When school gets out, they all seem to go west to Maywood and Bellwood,” he said.
The academy, which just completed its first year, is located at 8601 Roosevelt Road in Forest Park.
During the regular school year, the academy serves as an application-only magnet school serving the high school district’s elite students. The school, which served only its inaugural freshman class last year, will have a freshman and sophomore class in the coming school year.
Summer school at the academy is scheduled to run through July 20.