In a partnership with Sullivan High School to address the increased incidence of violence especially at dismissal time, 24th District Police Commander David Sobczyk and I met recently with Sullivan High School Principal Joseph Atria and the Sullivan High School Local School Council to discuss several proposed safety measures.
Joining us were representatives from the offices of Alderman Patrick O’Connor, State Senator Heather Steans, State Representative Harry Osterman and a dozen community leaders and residents. Although Sullivan is not located in my ward, Sullivan is the local public high school for 49th Ward residents, and many of the after-school disciplinary problems spill over into my ward. Safety at Sullivan High School was the number one concern at a town hall meeting on public safety that State Senator Steans, State Representative Osterman and I hosted last November.
Commander Sobczyk observed that more police resources are used at Sullivan than at high schools in more challenging neighborhoods. All of us agreed that the vast majority of Sullivan students do not cause any problems and are in school to learn, but a small number of young people, many of whom are not Sullivan students, are creating problems outside the school.
The Commander presented a list of recommendations, which have been adopted successfully at other high schools, that he believes will help Sullivan address safety issues:
•Adopt a uniform dress code. The Commander indicated that school uniforms bring a sense of order and discipline to schools and prevent students from displaying gang colors.
•Alternate dismissal procedures. Currently all students leave the building from the same west side doors at the same time. This leads to large congregations of students and increases the potential for after-school fights. The Commander suggested that students be assigned a number of different exits, depending on the direction they will be heading after school.
•Stagger dismissal times. Dismissing some students earlier than others also helps reduce the large congregations of students who gather outside after school, and helps the police better safeguard student safety.
•Increase security staffing. The Commander suggested the school needs to beef up its own security staff.
•Improve student suspension practices. The Commander noted that many of the problems stem from suspended students who return to the school grounds at dismissal time. He suggested the school adopt a rule prohibiting all suspended students from coming within two blocks of the school during their suspension, and to sign criminal complaints against those students who violate the prohibition. Principal Atria said the school already had adopted that practice after meeting with the Commander earlier in the month.
I look forward to working with the Sullivan Local School Council and Principal Atria to adopt Commander Sobczyk’s recommendations in their entirety. These recommendations are based on proven track record of results in other city high schools. A secure and safe environment at Sullivan will improve academic performance, as well as enhance the safety of the entire neighborhood.
Obviously, these measures are only part of the solution. We must do more to provide constructive after school activities for our young people. Sullivan High School provides some wonderful after school activities, as do the Howard Area Community Center, the Rogers Park Community Council, and Family Matters, among others, but more needs to be done. I will continue my efforts to enhance the resources of these fine local organizations, as well as bring a full-time Boys and Girls Club to Rogers Park.
I would be interested in your comments. Please feel free to reply to this e-mail with your comments and suggestions, and I will share them with our Commander.