Acting under a State law that allows schools to extend their “safe zones” beyond their physical boundaries, the District 202 School Board approved on June 24 an intergovernmental agreement that would bring the sidewalks across the streets from ETHS into the zone. The state law allows the City, if requested by Evanston Township High School officials, to enforce trespassing laws within the zone. City Council must approve the agreement.
Safety Coordinator Sam Pettineo, who retired from the Evanston Police Department a few years ago, said he would work closely with Police Chief Richard Eddington to enforce the agreement judiciously, once it passes City Council.
In a June 20 memo to District 202 Superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon, Mr. Pettineo wrote that he felt the agreement was necessary for the safety of ETHS students. Both this past year and the year before, there were “a number of incidents where outside parties in conflict with current students have arrived in the area of ETHS intending to have confrontations.” In most cases, according to the memo, “the outside parties stand on public sidewalks waiting for individuals or groups of individuals to leave the building. On some occasions this has resulted in physical conflicts in the street.”
With the intergovernmental agreement in place, if an occasion arises that leads ETHS safety personnel to believe there might be a risk to students or community members, “we will ask the police department to enforce this agreement. …[I]t adds another tool to our toolbox of strategies to keep our school and community safe.”
Because the police department will not intervene unless requested by ETHS personnel, there should be little disruption to the regular activities of the community surrounding the high school, Mr. Pettineo said.
The school zone boundaries extend to the opposite sidewalk on all streets that border ETHS property: Church Street, Lake Street, Dodge and Pitner Avenues. Signs will be posted once the agreement is in effect.