A Waukegan District 60 forum focused on school safety is in the works, the move coming in the wake of rising safety concerns.
The forum is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at Waukegan High School’s Brookside campus, less than a month after two Waukegan teenagers were injured in an off-campus shooting.
The decision to host the forum wasn’t the result of any specific event, district spokesman Nick Alajakis said last week.
“We have found that there is some misinformation, or misconceptions out there, relating to discipline, safety initiatives and legislation,” he said. “We’re hoping to clarify some of that, while also bringing all stakeholders together to have an honest conversation about how we can work together to improve our schools and community.”
The legislation that is at the heart of that conversation will be Senate Bill 100, which will be the topic of one of the forum’s breakout sessions and is a law that took effect at the start of the 2016-17 school year and seeks to limit the use of discipline that keeps students out of the classroom.
The bill was the result, in part, of reports that found minority students were more likely to be expelled or suspended.
That was one of the issues Superintendent Theresa Plascencia pointed to during a September interview. She also said she had concerns about when discipline was being used and whether the circumstances in some cases merited the discipline assigned.
“The reality is when you issue suspensions, the kids that tend to be suspended are the kids that are already falling behind and so, when they’re out of school, they fall even further behind,” Plascencia said.
But some Waukegan teachers have told the News-Sun that they worry the pendulum has swung too far the other way and that the administration is losing control of some schools.
A parent of a boy who was assaulted by three kids while walking home from school raised concerns about violence among young people at the first City Council meeting following the Nov. 2 shooting. He said the students who hurt his son received only a “slap on the wrist,” with two of the three receiving three-day suspensions.
Ald. Greg Moisio, 3rd, whose day job is as a Waukegan High School physical education teacher, said at the meeting that students need to know there are consequences to their actions.
“We have got to come together and help each other with this, because if we don’t, it’s just going to get worse,” he said. “So many of these kids just do not have any idea. It’s become accepted that it’s OK to be violent; it’s OK to have bad behavior.”
The forum will include a general meeting, a question-and-answer section with district- and building-level administrators, and breakout sessions on bullying, school security, Senate Bill 100, truancy and the district’s new attendance management system called HERO.
HERO is being rolled out at Waukegan High School and Jefferson Middle School this year, Alajakis said. It’s an upgrade from Start on Time, which was in place at the high school for about eight years and had a more punitive approach.
The new system will offer more incentives for students who are in class on time, he said.
Translation services will be available at the forum and questions can be directed to Alajakis at at 224-303-1200.