East St. Louis school board president: 'It's a sad day'
This week, Cahokia and East St. Louis schools were under “soft lockdowns” because of a shooting threat that was posted on social media.
Elsewhere in St. Clair County, Grant District 110 and Belleville Districts 118 and 201 haven’t had school lockdowns this year, but they have dealt with them in the past.
Their schools have had the heightened security when police alerted them to robbery or burglary suspects who may have been in the area of a school or during a parent custody dispute, when one parent might have tried to pick a child up without permission, according to district officials.
What does 'soft lockdown' mean?
Schools will handle a “soft lockdown” differently depending on the situation, their students and the campus.
Generally, during a soft lockdown, students and teachers can move around inside the school, but they don’t go outside.
At Belleville East High School, for example, students wouldn’t move between the 26 buildings on campus, according to Belleville District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier.
Superintendent Matt Klosterman said Belleville District 118 elementary school students wouldn’t go outside for recess or P.E. during a soft lockdown.
That’s different from a full lockdown, when students and teachers generally stay in their classrooms.
Restrictions are also placed on visitors during soft lockdowns.
Klosterman said no one is allowed to come inside a District 118 school if it is under a soft lockdown.
For the Belleville high schools, Dosier said parents would be allowed to pick their children up if they wanted to. Students might also be allowed to leave and drive themselves home under certain circumstances and if their parents approved it, according to Dosier.
Superintendent Matt Stines said Grant District 110 might lock the doors and heighten security at a time when the school is normally open, such as when students are arriving in the morning with parents, if they were under a soft lockdown.
“If something’s going on outside the walls that could be a threat to our kids, we want to keep it out,” Stines said.
When would a school put a soft lockdown in place?
When a crime takes place in town, school leaders say police will communicate with them if a suspect is on the run or if an arrest is taking place nearby.
District officials would then decide whether to put the school on soft lockdown until they hear from police that it’s safe again.
Belleville District 118 might also bring students inside and call for a soft lockdown if staff notice someone acting suspiciously on school property, according to Klosterman.
On Friday, leaders in Belleville District 201 announced a new way for the community to report school safety concerns: they can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-222-8222 to leave a message. They can leave tips anonymously through voicemail. The messages will be checked “on a regular basis,” according to a District 201 message to parents.
Stines noted that staff at every school are required to go through yearly training, so they can put plans in place to keep students safe. Grant District 110 staff will do it multiple times per year and assess their progress over time, according to Stines.