SYCAMORE - Sycamore Community School District 427 school board members this week reviewed a districtwide crisis plan, meant to outline steps to take for dangerous persons, fires or other potential threats.
School safety has been a topic discussed as several school board meetings across DeKalb County in the aftermath of an elementary school mass shooting in May at an Ulvade, Texas school which left 19 students and two teachers dead. Sycamore Superintendent Steve Wilder presented an overview of the district’s school crisis plan to the Sycamore Board of Education Tuesday.
“One of the things that impressed me about Sycamore when I arrived here was the strong relationship with Sycamore PD [Sycamore Police Department],” Wilder said, who began his position in early 2020.
Wilder said the district’s two Student Resource Officers, contracted through the Sycamore Police Department, the district employs serve a variety of roles, including as liaisons for crisis planning. The two officers work at Sycamore Middle School and Sycamore High School, Wilder has said.
“I just want to highlight having them in the building all the time is a huge asset,” said Wilder.
Board member Michael DeVito – who joined the meeting virtually Tuesday because of an illness – asked Wilder what the audit process for safety in the school district looks like.
Neighboring DeKalb District 428 recently underwent a safety audit, which recommended that DeKalb County’s largest school district update its facilities’ existing door mechanisms, mandate more vigilance for recess monitors and update cameras.
The school district is required by the state to review its crisis plan, but Wilder said it’s ongoing in Sycamore.
“It’s not something we do every three years or five years, or anything like that. It’s something we review on an ongoing basis,” said Wilder. “As events happen, as training changes, we become aware of that. We don’t wait for that annual review. If there are things we need to implement, we work through the process to do that.”
Wilder said to the best of his knowledge there isn’t a committee that walks through buildings checking the locks and latches of doors and windows. He said he believes enough people use the facilities that if a door had a faulty lock it would be noticed and then be properly reported.
In the event of a crisis situation, the ALICE plan is utilized by employees of Sycamore Community School District 427. ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, is an active shooter training program that enables both faculty and students to make informed decisions in the event of an armed intruder.
During the school year, a video is shown to students to help them learn the ALICE method of handling an intruder situation. Two versions of the video were created, one for Kindergarten through fifth-graders and another for middle school and high school students. During July’s Board of Education meeting, the video for the youngest subset of students was played. School Resource Officer, Sycamore Police Det. Ryan Hooper spoke during the video, which explains each step in the ALICE method.
“If a dangerous person ever comes into one of our schools, help will be on the way very quickly,” said Hooper, “but before help gets to the school each of us has to respond to the dangerous person in the best way possible to keep ourselves safe.”
The “counter” part of the ALICE plan involves doing things to distract a dangerous person, including throwing objects. DeVito talked about this during the meeting and asked if there is any formal equipment dealt to faculty and staff for the counter measure.
Wilder said ALICE trainers emphasize using whatever is closest to you at that moment, but there is at least one object in every classroom that sits with the crisis and safety supplies in an orange Home Depot bucket.
“I believe there is a brick or heavy item in every one of those buckets,” said Wilder. “That’s a part of the purpose of that, is something that could be thrown.
“It’s not necessarily the weight of the object to do damage to stop the intruder, it really is about distracting,” Wilder continued. “In a crisis situation like that, two or three seconds can make a huge difference.”