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York High Student to School Board: 'New Security Policies Aren't Preventing Anything'

Anna Hovorka says the real concern is the mental well-being of students.

After District 205 Superintendent David Pruneau opened Tuesday's School Board meeting with a rundown of new security procedures districtwide and a moment of silence for those killed in Newtown, Conn., York High School senior Anna Hovorka got up to deliver a sobering message.

"Security isn't the matter at hand," she said, during public comment. "The shooter had a mental illness. I think the School District needs to consider the fact that there are many students in our School District who have mental illnesses who are not seen or considered. The matter at hand is that that is who is a danger if anything were to happen."

She added she knows of "many people" in her grade, alone, who seem lonesome, shy or depressed and could potentially be at risk for committing violence.

She also said that not only are the security measures not helpful, some of them could even be harmful.

"We are not allowed to to be in hallways or leave through exits," she said. "And we are pushed into the commons into one large group of people, which in my opinion ... is dangerous."

She said if an intruder were to come into the school, such a large group in one place would be an easy target.

"I don't think these new policies are helping the school or preventing anything," she said. "They are making students more stressed out, and students are more eager to rebel than they were before."

School Board President Jim Collins went outside of typical protocol and addressed Hovorka directly.

"While it is not our policy to comment on public comment, I can assure you, we are listening carefully. Thank you very much," he said.

Security districtwide will continue to be studied, Pruneau said, in his opening comments.

"We're going to talk more about precautions than we have in the past," he said.

He also thanked the Elmhurst police for stepping up their security in and around all Elmhurst schools.

"It's a great manpower issue for them, but we appreciate the security and safety it provides students and our staff," he said.

Extra police presence will continue through the end of this week until the students are released for winter break, Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth said Monday.

Also in his opening statement, Pruneau did acknowledge the difficulty in planning for a random act of violence. But he made a promise to parents.

"Being a parent, I know how scary and upsetting this can be when you have a child in school. You watch them leave every day and come into our schools and hope we are doing everything we can to keep your child safe," he said. "Let me assure you, we are."

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Bunky December 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Fortunately I worked there all 4 yrs she was at York. The admin did not even have the common decency to inform us of his return. Talk about sending a child into freak out mode. I went off on the asst principal and he had the audacity to ask if he was speaking to me as a parent our an employee. It was a huge mess.
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Sorry to hear that. Wow....
Joseph Richard snodgrass December 19, 2012 at 04:27 PM
yea stop all the harrasement in schools and no one would want revenge
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 04:31 PM
CEO an...I believe our children do need more attention but how do they get it when there are truly incompetent people in the positions of authority in our schools? I know the admin fears parents and what they may do or say but good grief. What is itmgoing to take? We need to go back to "old school" consequences to actions. If there is a zero tolerance then make it zero not, well we will give them one more chance. Even something as simple as the dress code at the school is not followed. I don't care to see it. Yes, changes need to be made but the question is, how? There are so many people in this town that think nothing will happen here because "it's Elmhurst". Now that I am no longer working there, I have a voice and willing to use it. I just don't think it would change anything as they have and always will have their own agenda.
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Cronan...sorry not CEO
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 04:42 PM
If we cannot control what attention they receive at home or in school then we need to do what we can as a community. It feels as if our community is not teen friendly. We don't want to allow them a place to gather, we don't allow more than two at a time into some stores, we don't respect them =( By the way, I was shocked when I heard some football players were allowed to continue playing after being caught with alcohol more than once!? Apparently parents have an appeal process now...wth?? It was not that long ago that this was NOT tolerated, what happened??
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Parents want to be friends with their kids instead of actually parenting. I do not understand that. However, I do understand some of the store uptown not wanting some teens in their stores. Some of them are not only disrespectful to the people but property as well. The respect needs to go both ways. My husband and I would love to open an old fashioned soda fountain/ice cream store but Elmhurst rent is just too expensive. I loved working with the high school kids and would enjoy owning a place they could go and hang out - it's better than having them walk or drive around town and get into trouble.
NancyC December 19, 2012 at 04:59 PM
My son has always said the commons and lunch room are the worst places to be not only because of the noise! He felt much safer in the hall by his locker where he was allowed to be because of his need for peace and quiet!
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Yes Nancy, now that there is no longer a library to go to, the kids really have no quiet place to escape. How can we have a college prep high school that does not have a library? They want to say the new "Learning Commons" ( formerly the library and ARC) are helpful to the kids but it is so busy in those two rooms that the distractions are too great. One of the rooms is thentest make-up center and I never understood how the kids could concentrate with people coming in and out of that room. You son is correct...being by his locker is quieter only if hen does not get kicked out of the hall.
Pamela Redmond December 19, 2012 at 05:29 PM
This is how serious they think about the safety of our kids, They have taken the cop out of the middle school and put him at york to save money. What's wrong with this picture?
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 05:30 PM
The respect has to start somewhere and we are the adults.
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 05:39 PM
What? Which Middle School??
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Agreed. However, business owners should not have to deal with disrespectful kids any more than their customers should.
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Bunky said: Agreed. However, business owners should not have to deal with disrespectful kids any more than their customers should. Bunky, they have to deal with disrespectful adults every day!! This is what upsets me, we are treating them different because of their age. We show them no consideration/respect and they mimic us! UGH!
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 05:57 PM
The response the kids get from business owners is cause and effect. The same holds true for adults that create problems. I have seen it both ways. There are many parents that dump their kids off uptown to get them out of their hair. If they are not going to see a movie or spend money in a proprietors place of business, why should they have to be the kids' babysitter? It goes back to me agreeing with you ....there needs to be a place our kids can go where they can hang out and shoot the bull with their friends.
Alan Brinkmeier December 19, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I applaud Anna Hovorka for her wise, articulate and sensitive message. I also believe Anna's thinking is what a majority believe. And for good reason. Adults in charge should be listening to her, the parents, and to all the school constiuents. Going to "lock down" is not a solid solution nor does it do anyting to ease the stress levels at York. The Adults in charge should not doing things that tend to be "making students more stressed out", and "more eager to rebel". That is common sense and sometimes it appears common sense is lacking in large measure by those in the decision loop. The stress level is high at York already. That is commonly known to anyone that simply asks a teacher, staff member or students that is willing to be candid. Add to that the current final exam package for semester end, the upcoming holidays and common sense suggest that the Adults in charge should be supporting our kids. Now, add the horrific tragedy of Newtown to the mix and instead of being supportive, the "lock down" solution is to "push {the students} into the Commons into one large group of people" which "is dangerous" and certainly not comforting to the students when they need support the most. I have known Anna from a distance for many years and she should be proud of herself and her courage to speak. Many are watching to see if the Adults in charge indeed to listen or whether the mantra of "open communication" is just a sound bite. We are all watching to see.
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Exactly, a place where caring adults actually do want to spend time with them and hear what they have to say =) Look, there seem to be two openings for the Commission on Youth...http://www.elmhurst.org/index.aspx?nid=584
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Here is the application: http://www.elmhurst.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=436
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Okay, but I may not want to do what the city directs me to do if I do not agree with it. The city does not have money to put towards a youth center. What have these people done that have made a difference with our kids? I have not heard of anything. (asking in a non-defensive tone). It is so hard to not sound rude is why I noted that. Are you looking into the position?
Kent December 19, 2012 at 06:29 PM
My youngest daughter is a junior at York and in the last year or so I have felt the security is as tight as you can expect for a public high school. The next step would be armed guards at each door and metal detectors, which I would hate to see. I do realize that 95% of the security is designed to keep threats OUT but what about the threats that are already INSIDE? I worry more about the bullied, depressed or mentally ill / medicated student. I don't know what the administration is doing to monitor that but I hope they are taking that threat as seriously as having locked doors and close circuit cameras watching the entrances. The most secure 'campuses' I have known have been military bases and even they have shootings (i.e. Fort Hood). Parameter security is just a part of the solution.
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Bunky said: Okay, but I may not want to do what the city directs me to do if I do not agree with it. The city does not have money to put towards a youth center. What have these people done that have made a difference with our kids? I have not heard of anything. (asking in a non-defensive tone). It is so hard to not sound rude is why I noted that. Are you looking into the position? I feel the same way which is why I want to be a member...where else does one begin? Just filled out my application =)
Bunky December 19, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Good luck. I hope you get the position. I would be ecstatic to work directly with the kids if you can get something going. So, please keep me in mind if younare able to get things going.
5DecadesInElmhurs December 19, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I'll preface my comments by admitting that this article does not have the students full comments. As the subject is based upon a incredibly sad tragedy, some context may be lost in her remarks. However, there does seem to be a need for clarification. For example.... She added she knows of "many people" in her grade, alone, who seem lonesome, shy or depressed and could potentially be at risk for committing violence. Is she suggesting that those people be refused entry into the school? Does the mere fact that someone is shy or depressed be used as a pretext to institutionalize a student? More... she said. "And we are pushed into the commons into one large group of people, which in my opinion ... is dangerous." Really? I would think that there is strength in numbers. There is also a large number of staff who should be watching out for student safety. I was at York just after the student population peaked. We had ten periods and my fellow students went to school in shifts. At that time we also had open campus. The only acts of violence were the infrequent fights, and most guys had the sense to take it outside to the tracks. I think that there needs to be a greater sensitivity to all students, as well as a greater understanding of who the Special Ed students are, as well as their rights. There is a huge amount of information to be absorbed but this effort will be rewarded by the greater ability to discern what the real risks are.
Anna Hovorka December 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I wanted to say thank you for all of you that have left such positive feedback. I'm just so glad that people actually are paying attention to what I have said.
Cronan December 19, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Thank you for taking the time to do what most of us just talk about =)
Anna Hovorka December 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I am not suggesting at all that those people should be refused entry into the school. All I am asking for is that teachers and the administration pay more attention to students and what may be going on in their lives Students need to know that there is someone there for them. And in my 4 years at York, I have a very few amount of teachers reach out to students yet who may need it. And no I don't believe that if a student in more shy or is depressed it should be used as a pretext to institutionalize that student. And pushing all of us into the commons is more dangerous. If a situation like Columbine happened at York, a student would know that during lunch periods, there are a mass amount of people in the commons and cafeteria leading to a potentially bigger threat.
Big Tuna December 20, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Way to go Anna. It took alot of courage to do what you did. I hope it not only opens up awareness for your school. But for all schools. I'm sure your parents are proud of you.
Stewart Levine December 20, 2012 at 07:27 AM
psychopathy among teens and young adults is endemic of western civilization and western culture based on what we have come to accept as the 'norm' which fragments the mind and create schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorders among many others. if you would like to see a more serene peaceful society, all you have to do is put on some tv programs from the 1950's and compare them with what is being fed to the public at large today. the agenda is monumentally poisonous. I agree if you want to help kids, you need to help them help themselves. punishing society as a whole because of one psychopath, is wrong. if this guy wanted guns and wasn't allowed to purchase them he would have found them one way or another. its the people that are close to him and only him who you can blame. when you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns, and you will not be able to protect yourself from psychos like this for example
Jim Court December 21, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Stewart, You are correct. I am currently reading a book with a misleading name called " The Wisdom of Psychopaths" by Kevin Dutton. He speaks of how society has a vastly increasing number of psychopaths among us, in particular our younger generation. This is a very disturbing trend that I have often spoke about. I had thought about forming a book discussion group based on this book but other attempts to do something like this have met with indifference and lack of response. The idea of gathering with intelligent people who seek growth and understand seems appealing but I guess not in Elmhurst.
Jim Court December 21, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I believe that mental illness is a pervasive problem that society chooses to deny and ignore. Drug laws focus on punitive actions instead of the realization that much of the consumption is based on an attempt at self medication. I have often reached out to help the mentality ill and when they do anything, however minor, the police department often treats me with contempt should they have to deal with any petty issues. Serve and protect is often less priority than "do not bother us". There are some extremely good officers but there are those who have more hostility and contempt than is healthy for a police officer. It is interesting to note that studies have shown the as a whole, police officers score high on the sociopathy scale. The same is true for military special forces. I am a strong believer in the need for laws and appropriate enforcement. Without this our society would descend into anarchy. I think that enforcement of petty issues should never take priority over those things that matter. It is a form of busy work that justifies budgets and potentially increases the bureaucracy. No one is willing to address methods for improved methods for efficiency and delivery of services and I mean NO ONE !

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