Taft mulls removal of metal detectors


Taft High School principal Mark Grishaber wants the local school council to consider removing metal detectors from the school and eliminating class rankings.

"I think it leaves a bad image when people enter," Grishaber said of the detectors. Grishaber made his comments at the June 14 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council. He told the LSC that he "just wanted to plant the seeds" for future discussions on the issue.

"I’d like to hear the pros and cons," LSC chairwoman Lisa Schwieger said.

The metal detectors are inside the school’s main entrance on Bryn Mawr Avenue, but in recent months they have not be used to conduct searches. It is not feasible to conduct proper searches and to expect that all students would get through security in time for class, Grishaber said.

Former Taft principal Arthur Tarvardian said at an LSC meeting several years ago that even with the use of metal detectors, safety at a school the size of Taft can never be guaranteed given the number of unmonitored doors and windows throughout the building.

Grishaber said after the meeting that the detectors "give a false sense of security."

Mather and Disney II Magnet high schools do not use metal detectors, and there are other high schools with open campuses that use them in the morning but not in the afternoon when students are returning from lunch, Grishaber said.

Grishaber also said that class rankings may not adequately reflect a student’s academic accomplishments and that it may be time for Taft to join the growing number of schools that have abolished class rankings, which are based on grade point averages. He said that Young High School, where he previously worked as an assistant principal, eliminated class rankings more than 10 years ago and that colleges no longer require class rankings on admission applications.

Many suburban school districts have eliminated class rankings over concerns that that they generated too much competition among students and that in some instances they were hurting college acceptance chances because a student could be ranked in the bottom half of their class despite being on the honor roll with a "B" average.

Also at the meeting, Athletics Committee chairman Joe McFeely reported that an increasing number of the top eighth grade athletes in the area are choosing to attend Taft rather than a Catholic or selective enrollment high school. Taft won nine conference championships in the past school year.

It also was announced that Taft will return about $197,000 from its student-based budget to the Chicago Public Schools due to the school system’s budget problems. Earlier in the year each school was given a "suggested savings" amount that it was expected not to spend.

Grishaber said that Chicago Public Schools network chiefs monitored spending in an effort to make sure that each school could meet its savings goal. He said that Taft was prohibited from replacing a security guard to help the school meet its goal.

It is not known when schools will receive their student-based budgets for the 2016-17 school year, Grishaber said.

The school also plans to consider forming a support group for students with an alcohol or drug addiction. Grishaber said that he would like an older teen who has overcome an addiction to lead the workshops and that the workshops possibly could be offered during the school day to make it convenient for students to participate.

The council has not set a date for its next meeting, but it plans to hold its annual organizational meeting in early July.