MARION, IL — Administrators and staff at a school in southern Illinois say they want to be ahead of the game when it comes to your child’s safety this year.
In a little less than a week, Marion High School students will be back in their classrooms. One parent explains why the usual first day jitters have a more ominous component.
“I want the kids to feel as safe as they can in this environment. It’s hard to send your kids off to school not knowing if that’s the last time you say goodbye,” parent Tamra Kelly says.
After a string of school shootings across the country last school year, including the deadly shooting at Marshall County High School, schools like Marion High School are changing their safety procedures.
“Now these smaller communities that you think nothing happens, it’s there. It’s all around us,” Kelly says.
Last year, the school banned all backpacks except clear bags and limited the number of entry points. This year, the school is getting its first resource officer from the Marion Police Department. High School Principal Joey Ohnesorge says proactive is better than reactive.
“It’s an ever-changing world. I guess you would say that people are unpredictable. We want to make sure we are vigilant,” says Ohnesorge.
“If you feel a little uneasy with someone, that’s a gut feeling. Say it. It’s alright to speak up. It’s OK to look someone a little harder in the eyes if you feel they are looking at you weird. It’s OK to say something. Don’t hold back to second guess. What if they hurt someone else? You’re going to wish you said something then,” Kelly says.
Marion Police Chief Dawn Tondini says the new resource officer will be conducting building checks, monitoring surveillance cameras and, most importantly, building relationships with students.
“If there is that student that is having issues, or making comments, or posting pictures with guns all over Facebook, hopefully, with Tom in the school, they’ll feel comfortable going to him, and say ‘Hey, I think this person might be having problems,'” Tondini says.
A new social worker will also join the faculty, partnering with the resource officer and making sure students have a listening ear anytime they need to talk.
“Some kids can’t turn to their parents. Some kids can’t turn to their friends. Sometimes friends can make it worse. Your family can make it worse. So, why not have a third party who actually has to listen, understand and hopefully point them in the right direction?” Kelly says.
“We feel good about where we are in terms of building safety, making sure our students are safe and parents are feeling like we are ahead of the game on school safety,” Ohnesorge says.
Another new procedure? Kids will have to leave their new backpacks and their purses in their lockers until the end of the day.
The new safety procedures will allow students to focus on what’s important — their education — and perhaps give parents more peace of mind
Classes will start for Marion High School on Aug. 15. The resource officer is on a five-year contract with the school. During the summers, that officer will go back to being a regular patrol officer for the Marion Police Department.