|A safety update from Dr. Orr and Chief Adams |
Dear HPISD Parents, Staff & Community Members,|
Thank you for your support in working through a challenging time.
The series of bomb threats and the discovery of bullets at HPHS have disrupted campus life and necessitated the introduction of additional security measures to allow us to maintain a safe and productive learning environment, which is our highest priority. Thanks to tremendous cooperation, we have been able to continue with school, even as an ongoing criminal investigation proceeds on campus.
We want to continue to keep the lines of communication open and to provide you with updates. Here are some questions we have recently received from parents:
What daily safety measures are being taken on campus?
Have you considered using metal detectors?
- We are checking student and faculty IDs, both at entrances and with random checks throughout the school day. We appreciate our students' cooperation, as this has been an adjustment for them. We appreciate our volunteers and visitors also wearing their badges while on campus.
- The University Park Police Department and Town of Highland Park are continuing to provide armed officers on campus.
- We have limited the student entrances to the two main entrances on Emerson Avenue, the student entrance on Westchester Drive, and two other entrances on Douglas Avenue. All entry points are staffed by personnel. We have expanded the hours for security at these points, and custodians will not be opening the entrances until a staff member is present.
- The building has been searched by officers, dogs and bomb squads as needed.
- We have provided additional staff and have instructed supervising administrators, security guards and custodians with specific guidelines to prevent unnecessary access to areas of the building outside of school hours.
- Surveillance video cameras record 24/7, and we are working with UPPD and the FBI to review all relevant video footage, along with the review of forensic evidence. There are video cameras posted outside bathroom entrances.
What is the status of the investigation?
- We have carefully considered the use of metal detectors, which range from handheld detectors to walk-through machines.
- At this point, we have chosen to use handheld metal detectors as needed. The district has purchased handheld metal detectors, which will remain on campus permanently. In addition, UP police officers have their own handheld metal detectors.
- Members of the public have voiced strong opinions on this issue. While some suggest that we should install permanent airport-level security, others suggest that the installation of walk-through machines sends the wrong message to students.
Have you searched students? What are the legal guidelines?
- In the interest of the integrity of the investigation and in the interest of student safety, we cannot share specific facts about what information has been obtained during questioning.
- Many people have been interviewed, and investigators have followed through on all leads.
- We will continue to keep you updated, and if an arrest is made, we will make a timely announcement.
- The FBI is continuing to partner with UP police on the investigation.
How are parents and students being notified about threats?
- Officials have conducted searches of backpacks, lockers, cars, cell phones, clothing and bodily searches when there is reasonable suspicion of prohibited conduct.
- Please note that HPISD must conduct its investigations within the boundaries of what is permissible under state and federal law. These laws include the Fourth Amendment's right against unreasonable searches by the government.
- Under the law, the district may only conduct a search when it has reasonable suspicion of prohibited conduct. Reasonable suspicion means specific and describable conduct exists that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that a particular student has engaged in prohibited conduct. The requisite reasonable suspicion must be present from the outset of the search. Reasonable suspicion must be more than a hunch or supposition. For example, it would be illegal for the district to seize every student's cell phone and review it for clues. It would also be illegal for the district to fingerprint all students.
- Privacy expectations can be minimized by telling students beforehand that certain locations, such as lockers or vehicles parked on school grounds, are subject to random search, which is something the district does on a regular basis.
How can parents help?
- HPISD is communicating all emergencies through its text-messaging system, email and postings on the district website.
- Text messages allow the district to push instant notifications to users' cell phones. The software allows for a limited number of characters to be sent, so the texts will usually be brief and to the point. For more information, please check your email and the website.
- To sign up a parent or student for the text alerts, please refer to this FAQ. Faculty and staff can refer to this FAQ to sign up for text alerts.
We know that this has been a stressful time for our students, families, staff and community members. If your child has concerns, please encourage him or her to talk to a school counselor or a trusted teacher or other adult on campus. We appreciate your partnership, and we will continue to keep you informed.
- We encourage our parents to talk to their children about the seriousness of the situation we are facing. In this case, a terroristic threat can result in felony charges and imprisonment. A parent's wisdom, understanding and guidance goes a long way toward helping a child understand the harmful effects that threats such as those made against our campus can have.
- Parents can also help by reporting any information and leads to the University Park Police Department at 214-987-5354, members of the HPHS Administration at 214-780-3700 and Crime Stoppers at 1-877-373-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the recent threats at Highland Park High School. Tips may also be submitted on the web 24 hours a day.
- Anyone interested in contributing to the Crime Stoppers fund may do so by emailing HPISD's Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Tim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In an earlier update, we included a list of tips for helping keep our campuses safe.
HPISD Superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr
UP Police Chief Gary Adams
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