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School Safety and Prevention Update

March 7, 2023


Dear Zee-Bee Community:


On behalf of Zion-Benton Township High School District 126, we want to share an update about our safety measures as we strive to ensure a safe and secure learning environment. Our most recent Safety Plan was approved by the Board of Education earlier this school year. The Plan provides a comprehensive approach to school safety with strategic investments to protect our students, staff, and families. While we continue aligning the work to our safety plan, we also recognize the need to be reflective and adaptive to our strategies in addressing community needs.


Shootings create trauma for the people directly involved and everyone in surrounding neighborhoods and communities. The sounds of gunfire, the possibility that kids or loved ones may be unintended victims, and the inability to feel safe can cause long-term harm. As a school community, we are sensitive to the risk and the reality of that harm which calls us to action as we serve students, families, and the community.


As a school district, we are deeply concerned about the incident (gun violence) in our parking lot after a basketball game at the end of January. We thank the administration, staff, families, and local authorities for their leadership and ability to think quickly on their feet to protect our school community. Fortunately, no one was injured, but as a precautionary measure, we increased police presence during morning drop-off and pick-up after school and continued to offer social and emotional support services to students.


We are disappointed about the incident and saddened by the emotional stress caused by this event. We continue working closely with local authorities on this matter. Again, we would like to reassure you that our students did not participate in these violent acts that jeopardized public safety. We continue to be proud of our Zee-Bees as they show their school pride and represent us with dignity and honor in our district and throughout the nation.


The following points include safety and prevention strategies that are already in place:


  • Increasing our investment in social-emotional organizations that provide mental health support inside the school building;

  • Partnering with public health officials, non-profit organizations, the faith-based community, and others to provide services and resources around gun violence.

  • Invested in x-ray machines, metal detectors, door locking mechanisms, and other preventative strategies to enhance safety and security throughout our buildings.

  • Continue working with Zion Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies to ensure support where needed at specific school events.

  • A strong daily presence of safety and administrative staff throughout the school day.

  • Providing staff and administrators with professional development opportunities related to best practices in school safety.

  • Our leaders trained in the Incident Command System (ICS), the same system police and fire use for emergency response.

  • We coordinate our training with local police and fire departments and have a solid working relationship with them.

  • We provide school-wide behavioral expectations, caring school climate programs, positive interventions and supports, psychological and counseling services, and violence prevention programs such as conflict resolution and social skill development.


In addition, I am happy to share that our district is exploring comprehensive and innovative metal-detector scanning systems and license plate recognition systems as future infrastructure recommendations. The proposed ideas will be supported by decreased entry points during all school operations.


As a parent of three and a district resident, I can appreciate the emotions we have for our children's safety. However, law enforcement and school officials focus on eliminating the threat and protecting all stakeholders during serious events. When our attention is drawn away from that purpose to answer phones or redirect well-meaning parents, we can't do our jobs and compromise the safety of all.


I ask for your help in the event of a serious threat — Please stay away from the premises until directed. Instead, stay tuned to our websites, social media, robocalls, text messages, and local media. Once the situation has been cleared, follow the directions in an orderly manner.


We are committed to doing our part in promoting a safe and secure environment in partnership with our school community. Everyone plays an important role during a crisis, and below, you will find the “Dos and Don’ts” for parents during an emergency.



  • Remain as calm as you can

  • Review the Standard Response Protocol

  • Bring your driver’s license or another form of photo ID – this will be required to pick up your child at the reunification site if applicable

  • Check the following:

    • District Website

    • District Facebook Page @zbpride

    • Communication via phone (text alerts or robocalls)

    • Local Media Outlets


We will provide updates as the event unfolds. Updates will occur when there is new information to share or the event is over.



  • Drive to the scene of the event – in a Lockdown, you will not be allowed to enter the premises until after the event has been given the “all clear” by law enforcement. In addition, driving into danger can only complicate the event.

  • Call law enforcement or the school during the event. Those answering the phones may have only what you have, and they will not have the authority to make decisions you may request.


We all share a sense of urgency. We know unity and collaboration begin with us as we work together and in partnership with the communities we serve. We are committed to working together and supporting each other, including our first responders, who work to keep our communities safe daily.


In addition, knowing about common reactions to traumatic events can help you support your children. The following resources provide tips for families and caregivers in the event of violence:


I am proud to share that District 126 is dedicated to transparency, giving voice to community members, and reflecting on our work to ensure the safety and wellness of all members of our school community.


In partnership,


Jesse J. Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Superintendent of Schools