Student’s advocate for safety: students attend Willowbrook High School student forum on safety and gun control

Sophie Karrow, In-Depth Editor

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The morning took off with 400 students from 29 different high schools spread out across blue bleachers in the Willowbrook High School field house. All attendees took part in a safety forum to voice their opinions and thoughts on national issues. The goal was to return to school at the end of the morning with a plan of action they can take as students to communicate with adult leaders in the community about safety and make their school immediately safer.

DGN, represented by nine students, including myself, comprised of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, attended. Students chosen for the forum had shown previous interest in the walkouts and reached out to Principal Schwarze previously about the issue of school safety. Schwarze and Dr. Ken Sorenson served as school supervisors and adult leaders for the group.

9:30 – 10:45 AM

Willowbrook High School principal Dan Kraus prepared a three minute introduction speech about the purpose of the day. About five students then instructed the group on what events were to follow.

“This is an opportunity for everyone to have a voice, and for adults to step back and listen to the students today,” Kraus said.

While staff was being trained students were ushered to the side where they participated in an automated poll through their cell phones. They were asked what they felt their biggest concerns are regarding safety and mental health at their schools. After the poll was complete, students divided up according by school.

With their school supervisors, students worked together to fill out a chart to organize their thoughts on school safety. The chart was designed like a bullseye target, each ring was a different aspect of school safety. The first ring was what students felt like their school did well regarding safety, second ring was concerns regarding safety, the third ring was for improvements that could be made and the final ring was how to get others to share their voice on the matter.

Students roamed around to other schools targets to bring ideas back to their own, then students wrote down questions on note cards for the forum later. After, Willowbrook staff collected the questions and led groups into the auditorium.

11:00 – 12:30 AM

In the auditorium, students were instructed to choose a presenter to go in front of all the schools and share a summary of the most important parts of their target. Senior Emily Gornik spoke on behalf of DGN. Many schools took it as an opportunity to voice their concerns on the matter in general, sharing their concern for the future and as students heard thoughts they agreed with the speaker they snapped in unison.

After all 29 schools shared their thoughts, the group of adult invited guests sat on stage, this included State Senators, State Representatives, First Responders, Village Leaders and DuPage County Leaders. They were asked questions by supervisors. Though they were asked to come, all republican legislators turned down the invitation to attend the forum. Due to short time, the leaders were not asked all the questions but Willowbrook High School informed everyone that they would email them and they would get back to us.

1:00 – 3:20 PM

The nine students return to DGN ready to discuss the new safety ideas for the school. Over Skuttlebutts pizza and candy in the Alumni room students, Schwarze and Sorenson discussed multiple issues regarding the school’s safety. They discussed safety drills, teacher safety training, active shooter scenarios, safety systems for entrances, security, counselor and mental health check ins, learning commons that connects students, a safety committee for students and creating a positive and kind environment for everyone.