School District 64: Not-Really-Secured Vestibules Meet “Officer Krupke”


“Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,

You gotta understand,

It’s just our bringin’ up-ke

That gets us out of hand.

Our mothers all are junkies,

Our fathers all are drunks.

Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!”

If you’re over 21 and have received a proper education you should instantly recognize Stephen Sondheim’s opening lyrics of “Gee, Officer Krupke” from the iconic musical “West Side Story.”

Park Ridge isn’t the upper west side of New York City of the mid-1950s. And, mirabile dictu, The Ridge isn’t poverty-stricken, or dominated by two rival street gangs of “punks” whose mothers are junkies and whose fathers are drunks.

So why, exactly, did the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board vote unanimously at this past Monday night’s meeting to approve a “pilot program” at both of the District’s middle schools that will have a uniformed “school resource officer” (“SRO”) stationed at each school, but only part-time?

According to a story in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“School resource officers to be stationed part-time at District 64 middle schools,” August 29), a rotating “core group of Park Ridge police officers” will spend up to 8 hours per week at Lincoln, while one “dedicated school resource officer from the Niles Police Department” will be stationed at Emerson for “four hours per day for two and a half days per week” – which we assume means 10 hours per week. That’s 8-10 hours out of the roughly 35 school hours per week.

Can you say “tokenism”? How about “charade”?

The cost of this “pilot program”: A measly $32,950. That’s not even a blip on the D-64 $70 million-plus radar, although the H-A article pointed out that the per-hour cost for the Park Ridge officers is reportedly “roughly $65 per hour” but only “$46.02 per hour” for the Niles officer, a $19 per hour delta.

And even though the H-A article reports that the idea of these school resource officers wasn’t proposed to Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and his fellow Board members by Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz and her staff until July 17 – approximately one week after a Lincoln student and one from Maine South posted on social media a threat to use a gun at Maine South during summer school – D-64 officials insist that the “pilot program” is not related to that incident.

The real reason for this “pilot program”: That’s a little less clear, other than that its main purpose appears to be (according to the H-A article) “building positive relationships between students and the local police departments” in order to restore “the trust that has been destroyed over the years” between D-64 youth and the police.

The article also quotes Niles Police Cmdr. Robert Tornabene’s description 0f the SRO’s role as “a teacher and a counselor to students” who will “deal primarily with bullying issues and internet safety.”

What if that bullying occurs during the 25-27 hours per week the SROs won’t be at their posts? Nobody’s saying.

But it gets even better.

If an Emerson or Lincoln student engages in certain criminal behavior at the school – like, oh, say, dropping a bag of drugs in the hallway in front of an SRO – the SRO apparently won’t be allowed to do his/her police duty. Instead, he/she will act “like a staff member at the school…[and] not arrest someone for having something at school,” according to Cmdr. Tornabene.

Would that same standard apply if, instead of drugs, the dropped item was a Glock? Or a Bushmaster? Once again, nobody’s saying.

According to Supt. Heinz, however, school administrators would get first crack at any such “disciplinary issue” before it “reach[es] the police departments.” And both Tornabene and Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski acknowledged that SRO’s “would serve at the direction of the middle school administration while on duty at their respective schools.”

Does that mean that D-64, with the assistance of two different police departments, is instituting a program that basically requires an officer sworn to uphold and enforce our laws to refrain from doing his/her police duty but, instead, to delegate it – at least in the first instance – to an unsworn, untrained school administrator who may have the authority to tell the SRO what to do or not do?


We can only hope that a lot of important details about this “pilot program” are missing from that H-A article, because from that account this sounds almost too stupid to be true. However, if you read the three-page memo about the program on the D-64 website (“Report” at pages 8-10), you won’t find anything that makes it sound any smarter.

Then again, for a District that is blowing millions of dollars on not-really-secured vestibules – which won’t prevent the entry of a kid with an Uzi in his North Face backpack, or a dad with a Glock in his Burberry trench coat pocket, or a mom with a 9mm Beretta Nano in her Gucci purse, or a delivery man wearing a suicide vest under his green windbreaker – putting cops in schools for a few hours a week while effectively neutralizing their police powers sounds like par for the course.

Or more like 18 holes of double and triple bogies.

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