High School Security: Parker Perspectives

A poll gathers opinions on school safety, in preparation for the Chicago Mayoral Election


Photo credit: Naomi Gross

Parker security office Sahid Mohamed smiles behind security desk. Photo by Naomi Gross.

On December 5, 2022, Parker students were provided with an opportunity to make their voices heard and civically engaged. An email was sent out by “the Parker Weekly” with a subject line that read, “Do you care about Chicago?” The message was linked to a poll that collected data about high schoolers’ opinions on Chicago-specific issues. These topics are related to the Chicago Mayoral Election, which will take place on February 28, 2023. The poll gave students a chance to express their opinions and beliefs, as many are unable to do so in the election, due to being under 18.

This data collection is a part of a Mayoral Youth Forum, organized by the Scholastic Press Association and Northwestern Medill School. School newspapers from across Chicago issued the poll to students, resulting in opinions and data from nine public and private schools. Comprehensively, 1258 students responded from across Chicago, and 41 students responded within Parker.

 The poll contained questions about transportation, mental health, COVID-19 protocols, and school security. Reflecting on school safety, 65.9% of Parker respondents either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” to feeling “safe” in the presence of a school security officer. 

“The most valuable asset to protect in a school is students, faculty, and staff and our mission is to create a safe atmosphere where students can learn and teachers can teach,” Parker Security Officer Sahid Mohamed said.

In the poll, several students mentioned feeling “safe” at Parker, due to the three sets of doors, and the security guard’s ability to lock one set of doors before a person enters the lobby/alcove. 

Despite this, when asked if students felt “concerned”, “neutral”, or “not concerned” with school safety, 19 students selected “concerned”. In the poll, students reported feeling safe at Parker, but recent events that prompted media response have raised safety concerns.

Last month, a Parker faculty member was targeted on social media by a right-wing conservative group.  The school received thousands of hateful comments and online threats–one that even resulted in evacuation. In the poll, several students reported that these events increased concern surrounding school security. Specifically, this attack was directed at LGBTQ+ education at Parker.

“The Parker community did a great job at supporting queerness at Parker and standing up for queerness at Parker,” senior Lydia Blasko said. “But, because of the nature of the attacks, I felt less safe than I would have in the comfort of my own home.” 

In response to safety concerns, Mohamed noted that “more strict security measures have been put into effect.”

Some students mentioned Parker’s “lack” of safety measures, like metal detectors,

which generally work to maintain security and avoid entry of dangerous objects. Senior Lily Moss noted that metal detectors would be beneficial for extracurricular events. 

“Having metal detectors for extracurricular [activities] after school hours would enhance safety,” Moss said. “Currently, people who might not even be direct relatives [of students] can easily come in after school.”

In the poll, several students wrote about lockdown drills. Respondents felt Parker drills follow a basic procedure, and a student’s location and actions could be predictable to an intruder. Moss agrees with these sentiments. 

“I feel like lockdown drills are a little faulty in that [an intruder would] know what to expect if it were to happen in real life,” Moss said. “Almost everyone knows how you would lock down, where you would be, and what you would do.”

In the poll, a majority of responses expressed appreciation for Parker’s security guards. Students reported feeling safe due to the staff and Parker’s security system.  

“The best part of my job is knowing that everyone arrives at school safely and goes home the same way, safely,” Mohamed said. “As a father of four wonderful kids, I’m reminded of them by every one of the students here at Parker in some way or another, therefore, I protect them as I would like my kids protected at their school settings.”