There have been and will be more changes at Homewood-Flossmoor High School that will protect the students, teachers and staff and help maintain the excellent work happening on the campus, according to Steve Anderson, president of the District 233 school board.
In an interview with the H-F Chronicle, Anderson said his words are meant to reassure the community that the school board is paying attention to discipline and school security issues.
“Know that what you have in H-F is still a great thing. You still have a jewel of a high school here and know that the board and the administration are cognizant of that. We are in 2018 and trying to do everything we can to provide for the kids and the staff the best way that we can,” Anderson said.
The board president said he has heard concerns from community members about reports of recent fights on campus and a meeting Principal Jerry Lee Anderson held with parents to share concerns about student behavior.
H-F’s proximity to areas with gang problems isn’t lost on board members, but they don’t believe the high school is faced with a gang issue, Anderson said. The staff is faced with issues of student disrespect for authority.
“It feels like today we have kids that are more willing to do risky stuff and aren’t necessarily concerned about the consequences,” he explained. “And the consequences are serious. We use suspensions. We use expulsions when we have to in rare cases. We monitor the situation as best we can to stay on top of it.”
As a parent, Anderson said he recognizes the high school years “are hard for kids.” They are moving from youth to adulthood facing not only physical changes but peer pressure and outside influences.
Anderson believes H-F staff is doing a good job of setting behavior expectations, and that the administration is “being proactive. Instead of letting things get lose they’re actively working with the deans and staff to try and figure out what reaction they need to have and what proactive measures they need to take, so we don’t find ourselves having another meeting” with parents on students’ questionable behaviors.
Social media has changed student interactions, he said. Actions are instigated between individuals and it reaches everyone in their social network.
“Kids these days start a fight before they even go to bed the night before. A lot of what goes on in our school was festering before they got to school. A lot of the time people come agitated. It’s incumbent upon us to give kids the tools to deal with that,” Anderson said, “but the tools keep changing.”
“And, as important as it is to arm the kids with the tools, we have to arm the parents with the tools they need as well to help them teach their kids to react the right way,” he added. H-F offers a variety of informational meetings for parents during the school year, including topics about social media.
Anderson shared that the meeting called by the principal wasn’t the result of the fights.
“We had that meeting because we saw some actions that students were engaging in that concerned us and we wanted to talk with the parents and arm them with the information we received and the consequences of what those actions could be. More important than anything was (H-F) getting that message out,” he stressed.
Anderson expects the school board to add to the roster of current and retired police serving as school resource officers. The district is also making improvements through its “School Messenger” system that works with the phone system. It has a number of features the district will be implementing soon. Anderson said it is the best way to share emergency security issues with staff, students and the community.