In scary and frustrating times, in the moment we send our kids back to school, there is progress to report in Oak Park.
Oak Park and River Forest High School and the village’s police department are about to sign an intergovernmental agreement that makes clear how these two critical bodies will communicate in moments of possible violent crisis. That there has not long been such a detailed pact seems to be a surprise to all involved. Include us in that surprise.
The eye-opener appears to have been an incident last spring when an OPRF senior was arrested outside the school, based on a tip that he was carrying a handgun in his backpack. There was good work done that day by both police and school officials even though the communications between the entities were raggedy and not at the appropriate levels. We trust that is fixed.
A more general discussion of campus safety at a recent OPRF board meeting had two members express an openness to bringing back into the building at least one Oak Park cop as a so-called “resource officer.” That cooperative program was ended, at OPRF and many schools, after the racial reckoning that followed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
There were legitimate reasons to end the school resource officer program. And now there are reasons to begin a very open, collaborative and creative discussion to decide if there is value in inventing a program that would allow a new kind of partnership that would not be seen as an unwelcome presence by students of color. We’re not sure it is possible. But the discussion might have value.
The young man who carried the gun outside OPRF may be about to enter a plea deal that would result in two years’ probation with an intensive community service component. From our reporting over several months about this young man and the circumstances that led him to make a genuinely awful choice, this seems a reasonable and empathetic outcome.