Controlling access at OPRF campus

Officials: securing building while being welcoming is a tough balancing act

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Randy Braverman, OPRF's new security director, wasn't on the job long before facing his first security incident.

He saw a man, who didn't appear to be a parent or student, wandering in the building. Turns out it was a homeless person asking for money. Thankfully, that's all the person wanted, Braverman says.

Controlling access to Oak Park and River Forest High School, 201 N. Scoville Ave., is part of Braverman's job. And it's taken on a greater sense of urgency in recent years, especially with the recent school shootings in Newtown Conn. last December.

Hired in April, Braverman's background in law enforcement is extensive.

Prior to OPRF, Braverman, a former police officer, worked for the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, training local police and school officials, including OPRF's staff. He's also a former security director for Cicero's public schools. His OPRF responsibilities include training staff and teachers on proper emergency procedures.

"Access control is the big thing in schools," Braverman said. "You've seen it all over the world. Schools have to control access because we need to know who's in our building, and making sure that people who are in our building are supposed to be here. And if we have an emergency, we have to know who's in our building because we have to account for it."

Braverman said access control is also about keeping staff and students, and visitors, safe.

The most recent and noticeable change to OPRF are the new glass doors in the Welcome Center just inside the Scoville Avenue main entrance. Visitors are now buzzed in through the doors to access the rest of the building after they have registered with staff. Teachers and other staff scan their IDs to enter. Installed three week's ago, the glass doors and walls enclose the Welcome Center.

"Everybody goes through one door so we have everyone checking in and we know who's supposed to be here, because anyone can walk in off the street obviously," Braverman said.

The school has two other entrances just for students — at the South Mall on East Avenue and on Erie Street.

IDs worn by students and staff are mandatory. Students without one have to get a temporary ID. Visitors must turn over a driver's license or state ID at the Welcome Center before receiving a temporary ID.

The school upgraded its security camera system two years, including adding more cameras in the building. OPRF's closed campus policy is entering its third year, with juniors and seniors allowed off campus for lunch but under strict conditions, including parental approval.

Some parents and students have complained about these recent changes.

Principal Nathaniel Rouse insists that the school is still welcoming to visitors and parents, but that safety is the first priority. Installing the new door system, he adds, was a safety measure.

"I have a huge task in making sure that the comings and goings of individuals here are safe," Rouse said. "We always have to air on the side of caution, so balancing the need to be welcoming to visitors — and our students and staff — with the need to make sure that we are secure is difficult at times, but we're getting better at that.

"The doors were a direct result of some of the concerns and the openness that we've had that compromises safety," Rouse said. "So, going to a system that allows us to monitor that better is not us saying that we don't want people here, it's about controlling who's here, when and how — and most importantly, that our students and staff are safe.

Rouse said the Connecticut school shooting has had an influence.

"Sandy Hook, we learned a lot from that. We had 17 doors that were open at any time where people can come and go. We have 3,200 students that come in this building every day. We have over 300 faculty and staff. We're a big school. Having 17 doors compromises your ability to determine who's coming and going."

And complaints about the lack of openness, Rouse said, stem from people's memory of how schools used to be.

"Most folks have been through high school, and when you have, you're going to have a lens of what high school looks like. And if you went to school here, it looks very different than it did 20 years ago, or 10 or five years ago," Rouse said. "So we are doing things that are best-practice as it relates to safety that's very different than when we were in high school."

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

20 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 30th, 2013 4:04 PM

They hold on to your license to ensure that you return your temporary visitor pass, so that you don'k keep it and reuse or sell it for some nefarious purpose. It's a watered-down "badge exchange" program, modeled on the type of program used at some secure nuclear and military sites. I'll leave the question of its effectiveness up to the reader.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2013 3:45 PM

Parent, it doesn't make it any safer to hold a drivers license. A visitor can enter with a fake drivers license. A guest to the school has business to conduct with someone. That someone is notified the guest has arrived and the person is verified by showing a drivers license. The visitor is escorted to and from. The school notes the entry and exit time verified by escort.

parent from op  

Posted: August 29th, 2013 11:41 PM

I don't mind handing over my drivers license - but I do mind that they don't hand it back until I leave the building. What if they misplace it or hand it to the wrong person? Making a copy should be enough. I do not see how keeping a person's driver's license does anything to improve security.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2013 4:29 PM

Principal Nathaniel Rouse, "Sandy Hook, we learned a lot from that." Did he learn that teachers and staff should have recognized the shooters stood out among the general population of the other students. Is Rouse having teachers and staff take a course on possible indicators? Does Rouse know each shooter did not flee. Rouse thinks because a high school was safe years ago, it can't be safe today. Students have changed because the administration no longer expects responsibility from students.

Brutal from Sandy Hook  

Posted: August 29th, 2013 4:02 PM

All I can say to people like Mr. Zeh and Edutainment is that if your child was the victim of a shooting, more power to you if you continued to spew out the same sarcastic, apathetic garbage.

an op mom from oak park  

Posted: August 29th, 2013 2:22 PM

I say, "good for the school." Keep our kids safe please. How much did this really have to do with issues of crime and drug abuse at OPRF? I already have friends encouraging me NOT to send my grade/pre schoolers to OPRF. So I hope this is just the first step towards resolving the issues that are plauging OPRF. I hope the school district is taking a long, honest look at the reasons behind these issues and working towards real solutions. Thanks

Edutainment 123 from Joke Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2013 2:18 PM

Have we considered doing away with the old-fashioned physical school building, and instituted E-learning from home? That way students would never have to leave the safety of their own houses. They could maybe wear bullet proof vests too.

Robert Zeh from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2013 12:06 PM

If we're going to justify additional safety measures at OPRF because of tragedies like the shooting in Sandy Hook, why stop with school shootings? In the event of a chemical spill from the nearby Union Pacific West line, wouldn't we all be grateful if we'd pre-positioned hazmat suits, and made the building air tight? In the event of a tornado, wouldn't OPRF be safer it was all built underground? In February, a meteor struck Chelyabinsk, injuring thousands. Have we considered a meteor shield for OPRF, or at least safety glass in all the windows? Even if only one life were saved, wouldn't it be worthwhile? Or, we could assess our risks rationally, and conclude that in a nation with 140,000 schools, shootings at schools (although well reported and tragic) are incredibly rare. That's the kind of thinking I'd like to see OPRF teaching, in the classroom and by example.

Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 10:36 PM

Q. You seem quite adept at using the "red herring" and "strawman" logical fallacies.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 10:32 PM

Alan From Oak Park. Do you think the school now has sufficient security? If an incident happened because someone got through a window, would you say we need to do better, or would you think real security is not possible unless everything is secure. I don't want an incident to happen, but doing partial security is just a false sense or real security.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 10:27 PM

Brutal from Sandy Hook The founders of this Nation wanted to be free from England, and fought to keep their freedom. Liberty and Freedom is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views. Your view is opposing to a free country to our founding founders. False security is what you have.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 10:19 PM

Brutal from Sandy Hook There was no gain from the loss of life fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is not any better, and Afghanistan is now being negotiated, but the reason sold and accepted by someone like yourself was for your own good to protect you from terrorists. Been their with communism, and you caused us to loose that one by buying communist made products.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 10:15 PM

Alan from Oak Park, Movie Theaters should have at the minimum metal detectors people have to walk through a two armed guards, unless you would rather let movie goers take a chance of being shot.

Brutal from Sandy Hook  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 8:07 PM

Amen, Alan. People like Q are hypocritical and contradicting enough to mention military gains and warrantless searches in the same breath. If we followed Q's logic, OBL would still be at large, another major terrorist attack would have occurred by now, and tragedies like Sandy Hook would happen every week. Would the founders of this nation have agreed to sacrifice a little personal freedom in the name of protecting our children? Well, Q likely thinks not.

Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 7:57 PM

Just let one incident happen to one of our students because of lack of sufficient security in our schools and these folks talking so forcefully about "freedoms lost " will be talking out of the other side of their mouth. Get real people.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 6:44 PM

Brutal As long as anything makes you feel safer, you will agree with it. That same thinking is what led to warrantless searches, stop and frisk anyone in New York, etc., etc.. If you give up what Men and Women in the Military fought for, then you don't really understand the meaning of freedom.

Brutal from Sandy Hook  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 5:50 PM

The last 2 posters? Yup, brutal. We obviously have an emo student followed by a union hack teacher. God forbid the powers that be attempt to create a safer school. Typical Oak Park. We would sooner suffer a massacre than risk our precious Oak Park "uniqueness." And yes, terrible grammar in the article.

Teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 5:01 PM

Have all the students go through metal detectors. Set up snipers on the roof tops. Place sheets of steel over all windows so nothing can be passed in. Have only one entrance, close all others. Train all teachers how to shoot and provide them with guns and radios and install bullet resistant windows to separate students and teachers. All students stay in one class room and teachers rotate. Install rest rooms in all classrooms. Remove cell phones, wireless internet connections from students.

OPRF  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 3:59 PM

Braverman is a joke I don't doubt that he knows what he's doing when it comes to keeping a school safe but my god! 1st off, he walks around with his business suit on as if OPRF was some big money corporation. Second off, he has barged into classrooms on several occasions and directly scolded teachers saying things like "If we ever have an incident, it is directly your fault" or "Are you insane? You let a kid go to the bathroom without a pass?"... all of that in front of 25+ students! Shameful..

Copy editor at large from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2013 10:05 AM

Someone erred on the side of poor spelling.

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