Saying they were “two sides of the same issue,” the Proviso Township High School District 209 board, June 9, asked the administration to look at a new style of training for campus security staff and announced the first meeting of a new student discipline committee.
Security guards and fights at Proviso East, caught on cellphone, have plagued the district this past school year. In December, local television stations broadcast cellphone video showing Varsity Boys Basketball Coach Donnie Boyce allegedly choking a girl involved in a fight. Boyce was working full time as a security guard for the school. Then on May 13, WGN broadcast more cellphone video of two security guards who appeared not to intervene in a fight between two girls.
The board voted 6-1 to terminate those two female guards at the June 9 meeting. Board President Theresa Kelly voted nay. Kelly was also the lone vote against Donnie Boyce’s termination at the February 2015 board meeting.
“With what’s going on in this district, we must have our security staff fully trained,” Kelly said. The staff especially needed to learn how to properly and safely restrain students, she added.
One of the suspended security staff members addressed the board, identifying herself and saying the board needed to provide better training.
“You need a better policy and procedure set in place if there is a weapon involved,” said Nattea Harvey. “There was a weapon [in this fight],” she told the board.
Harvey’s supervisor, Marcia Watson, also told the board the staff needed better training and was “only as good as its leaders.” She pointed out the staff being let go were paid $17 an hour, not $90,000 like supervisors making the decisions.
District Business Manager Todd Drafall presented a report about training sessions provided by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department for no cost. He praised the free programs for their emphasis on de-escalating conflict.
But board member Ned Wagner called the security training too “police-oriented” and “martial.”
“In order to have better success, we need to reduce the police orientation of the security in school,” Wagner said.
District Communications Director Rob Daniels said Proviso East and West each have a local police officer assigned as a resource officer “like almost all large suburban high schools.”
Kelly and Wagner suggested working with a group called Conflict Prevention Institute (CPI) from Milwaukee. The group works with school districts and hospitals to train security staff in “nonviolent crisis intervention,” according to their website.
“CPI is basically a therapeutic approach,” said Wagner, who works with Alzheimer’s patients in his professional life. CPI also provides special training for Alzheimer’s caretakers at hospitals.
“CPI is based on having individual relationships with the students and being aware of their emotional issues,” he said. “There’s a component of how to intervene physically too. It would be really brilliant to bring CPI in.”
Board members said they thought CPI had worked with the district before at Proviso West High School, but this could not be confirmed later.
Kelly asked the administration to check out an upcoming CPI presentation in Elgin in June.
“The district continues to change its in-service for support staff from one year to the next as needs change,” said Daniel, noting that training for CPR/AED remained constant from year to year.
Revamping the process for student discipline was also discussed, with Wagner calling discipline and security “two sides of the same issue.”
President Kelly told the board about a new student discipline committee. The committee consists of about 20 members, including a Maywood police officer, two board members, teachers from each of the buildings, students from all three schools and community residents.
The committee meeting had a presentation about “peer mentoring, peer mediation and restorative justice” by Jason Smith, a student behavior specialist at District 89, according to Kelly.
Board member Claudia Medina said she was impressed that learning about restorative justice techniques seemed to “change the security and faculty-wide communication style and change the relationships with the students.”
The committee will present a report at the July meeting, Kelly said.