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History of Cortland Elementary School Safety, Dekalb County, Illinois

As told by Cortland Elementary School Students
Cortland, Illinois

Story Narrative:

A woman with blonde hair wears a black blouse and sits in a classroom.

Coming Home: Stories from Main Street is a collaboration that combines the Rural Community Assistance Partnership's "Rural Homecoming" initiative with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program. Coming Home engages youth in exploring their town’s past and thinking about its future. This program is a remarkable experience for local participants. Rural youth often feel disconnected from local culture. They may feel that adults do not listen to them or that their town’s history does not matter. This project helps to overcome those barriers.

Students at Cortland Elementary in Dekalb County, Illinois, interviewed a local resident and teachers at their school to assess past and present school safety issues.

Sally Coyle (00:12): Well, none of you are going to have ever heard of this school because it was McMurray Elementary School. Do you know where the Northern Illinois University is? Way over on the other side of DeKalb? That's part of Northern now. It was an elementary school. I went there up through fifth grade.

Speaker 2 (00:30): Excellent.

Sally Coyle (00:30): And then I went on to Glidden School, Glidden Grade School, which has now been torn down and done away with.

Speaker 2 (00:37): When you went to school, what kind of safety concerns were there?

Sally Coyle (00:42): Fire escape only, and it was the big one that spiraled all the way down. And we loved it. But that's about the only thing that we really had any safety problems at the time.

Mrs. Meyers (00:55): When I began teaching, we didn't worry about the same types of safety issues. Obviously we worried about things like children running with scissors, or being unsafe in the classroom, or things like that. When I started school, teaching, we didn't think about things like intruder drills, and bomb threats, and things like that. We had fire drills and we had tornado drills, but those were the only drills we had.

Speaker 2 (01:31): How is safety in schools today different than when you started teaching?

Mrs. Hilliard (01:36): It's really different. It's very different than when I started teaching 22 years ago. Back then, pretty much just anybody could walk into the school. You didn't have to have a visitor badge. People didn't wear... We have these lanyards that we wear to identify that we are school staff. It was just a lot more kind of lax in the security department, especially in terms of, our doors were not locked all the time, we didn't have buzzer entry systems into schools. Things were quite different. We didn't have security cameras. So I think technology has really helped to improve safety in that department.

Mrs. Meyers (02:16): My biggest concern regarding school safety is not a big bad guy coming in and harming a lot of us. That is not my biggest concern about school safety. I know that's a horrific thing, but I think that if we looked at the numbers and the percentages, that it's a small possibility. A very tiny, tiny possibility. So my biggest concern about school safety is more children who are not prepared to be in school, who can cause harm to themselves or others.

Mrs. Hilliard (03:01): And just starting out way back in 2001, we didn't even have intruder drills. We did not practice for the event of a intruder coming in. And I think that speaks to the fact that we didn't have that safety and security of buzzers, and we weren't worried so much about people coming in. And we didn't have any kind of intruder drill training until about 12 years ago.

Mrs. Meyers (03:28): I feel very safe in our school. I do feel very safe in our school. I think that everybody works together. The people who aren't in our building and we don't see, the upper administration, but especially Mrs. Hilliard and Mrs. Yu, who really know our building, they really know where problems can happen, and they live with us and work with us every day. So I really believe in their ability to keep us safe and if they see something that could be alarming, that they are both very intelligent people who can help rectify the situation. So I feel very safe in our building.

Zoe H. (04:13): If we feel safe in school. For me, yes, I do feel safe in our school.

Emily (04:20): Yeah, I feel safe at school because it's pretty hidden and stuff.

Genevieve P. (04:28): I do feel safe because the school is kind of in the middle of nowhere. It's out in the open.

Marvin F. (04:41): I feel safe in this school because we have enough stuff and certain things to see if there's an intruder with a weapon or something, and passes and stuff.

Asset ID: 2023.05.03
Themes: School, education, safety, security, elementary education, teachers, teaching, technology, lockdown drills, architecture
Date recorded: September 2022-January 2023
Length of recording: 0:05:11
Related traveling exhibition/program: Coming Home Student Documentaries
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Cortland Elementary School in collaboration with Dekalb County History Center and WNIJ, Dekalb County, Illinois
More information or related assets: and

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