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."