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School forums focus on safety, police partnership

By Dan Campana

A pair of April meetings focused on school safety will give parents and the public a glimpse of the ongoing partnership between northwest suburban school officials and local police.

While the events scheduled for April 11 at Hoffman Estates High School and April 12 at Palatine High School take place nearly two months after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, they’ll serve as a reminder that student safety is an everyday focus.

“I believe we have a great relationship with the local police departments from the communities we serve,” said Tom Petersen, director of community relations for Palatine-based Township High School District 211.

That connection is rooted within the school resource officer program which puts an “armed, identifiable” police officer in each building during the day and often at large afterschool events.

“The SRO’s main responsibility is to serve as the primary liaison between the school and the local police department,” Petersen explained. “They are directly involved in each’s school’s emergency planning and response.”

Additionally, Petersen said, the district – the state’s largest high school district – continually works with the police departments and other first responders on emergency protocols and drills at its five schools.

“This is an everyday, close relationship we have with the schools,” Schaumburg Police Sgt. Christy Lindhurst said. “From the police department’s perspective, it is good communication which has made our relationship work so well over the years.

“The consistent open communication allows for cooperation and trust between the two organizations, which is critical for maintaining a safe environment,” she added.

Lindhurst said the April forums are a good chance to connect with the public on an important, top-of-mind topic.

“We realize the public does not get an opportunity to always see and hear about the many ways in which we partner with the schools to keep students safe. This is a great way to keep everyone informed,” Lindhurst explained. “We hope the public walks away from the forum more knowledgeable about our commitment to school safety and the students in our community.”