Jacksonville School District 117 says that they have had security issues this year and they want the public to understand they are under obligation to maintain safe environments for students.
District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek says that the vast majority of parents in District 117 are tremendous partners with the district when it comes to protocols about access to district properties during the school day.
He says though the district has seen an uptick of people who don’t understand that during the school day the district campuses are off limits to the public: “We’ve had people walking their dogs unleashed…good-sized dogs…on our property near playgrounds where kids are playing. As the administrators have asked them to leave, they’ve gotten mouthy and cursed them out saying they were allowed to come on the property because it’s taxpayer property and they are allowed to come on. They forget the fact that we owe to the taxpayers to maintain a safe environment for the students, and that means that no, you are not allowed access to the school when the school is in session and kids are there for the property or for the building because we have to maintain safety, especially in light of the events that are happening in schools nowadays throughout the country.”
Ptacek says that the district has had to issue orders of no-trespass to individuals that will not comply with these expectations.
Ptacek says he also felt compelled to address the public due to a recent physical altercation between 3 adults and a bus driver on a District 117 school bus: “Last week’s event where we had 3 individuals come on the bus in a very aggressive manner because of wanting to address a staff member because of what they had heard the staff member had said the day beforehand. It led to our bus driver doing a great job of trying to physically get them off the bus, which that turned into battery against our bus driver. We have full video and full audio [of the incident]. I’ve watched every bit of it. It’s just absolutely not acceptable behavior. I wanted to get the message out for two different reasons: one, to state to anybody who could do that is that we are going to take this very seriously and call the police; but also for everyone else, to give them a sense of security that we will handle these extreme behaviors.”
Ptacek confirmed that the parents involved in the altercation hadn’t gone through procedures of contacting the bus garage, the building administration, or the Central Office about the alleged behavior of a bus monitor that supposedly led up to the altercation: “The student came home and said the monitor made a statement. We listened to the video and audio from the previous day. [The individuals] did not receive an accurate telling of what happened the day beforehand at all. Instead of going through the protocols of calling the bus garage, and if they don’t feel like they were given any feedback, calling the Central Office or even really even with the bus, calling the building principal. The principal can also lead that [situation] if something has been done inappropriately. They just came on the bus and barged up into the bus and started asking who is this, is this monitor there. Well, now you have somebody…the 3 individuals at the front of the bus trapped on a bus way away from any other security or any other support – they are terrified. I personally know some parents who emailed us last week and said that their kids were cowering in their seats because it was so scary for our students. That is not appropriate.”
Ptacek said in the Facebook post to the community on Monday about the incident that the video and audio footage taken from the bus will not be released to the public to protect the identities of the minor children aboard the bus at the time of the altercation. Ptacek says this is another example of why staff limit access to District 117 property to keep everyone safe.