A major fight in Maywood that occurred near Proviso East High School in January has incited a much-needed debate about who, or what, is responsible for securing a school (and the people in it) because it is inconveniently situated on property in unincorporated Cook County, and surrounded by an area that undoubtedly falls within the jurisdiction of Maywood, River Forest, and (if you go far enough down Madison Street) Forest Park police.
After our reporting on the Jan. 22 incident, which, as East and District 209 officials are quick to point out, took place off-campus, there are still some unanswered questions and unresolved issues. Just how many Cook County Sheriff’s deputies, for instance, are on school grounds at any given time?
How do different law enforcement agencies, like the Maywood police and the Sheriff’s Office, communicate with each other in large emergency situations like what happened last month?
Does the district have an ongoing, coordinated response plan for ensuring the routine safe passage of students from the school to their homes? Were parents and guardians notified about the incident immediately after it happened?
Surely, the district believes a fight involving reportedly dozens of people merited reaching out to community members.
We applaud the school’s restorative justice approach to this incident. This newspaper’s memory is long enough to recall when those young black boys would have been expelled with barely a hiccup by school board members.
Things have, obviously and thankfully, changed since then — a testament to both the new school board, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford’s Senate Bill 100, and new, more proactive and empathetic administrative teams at East and at D209.
But there are some wrinkles to be ironed out here, not least of which is the confusion surrounding the contract, or promissory note of sorts, that the eight students involved had to sign. They agreed not to fight anymore, but the fight, district officials repeatedly emphasize, took place off campus. So what is the agreement pertaining to? Behavior in or out of school? Why, if this whole incident was precipitated by adults and juveniles who don’t attend East, were only three current students arrested and charged?
Moreover, what happens if the students break that agreement? Crickets. What kind of positive reinforcements will accompany those contracts? Crickets. Why would the police report describe the contract as “a second chance” that staves off expulsion when district officials said the contract was nothing of the sort? Crickets.
We believe this situation reflects a critical need for the variety of local agencies and taxing bodies responsible for Proviso East and the surrounding area to come together to develop a cohesive, comprehensive plan for preventing something like this from happening again in a way that does not punish the students.
What’s more, this isn’t about deflecting responsibility for where the fight happened or who caused it in order to avoid bad publicity. People’s lives are more important than good press.