CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Parents and students filled the Champaign School District Board Room after they learned the district has been sitting on $526,620 meant for gun violence prevention.
They sat through talks of accomplishments and plans on Monday night, but parents said they still need more clarity. An email exchange about the district’s response to gun violence between Superintendent Sheila Boozer and an employee was made public. Now parents and students are calling for change and an end to the excuses, but the district said they’re trying their best to deliver.
“You all elected us. Please let us do the work that we are trying to do,” Champaign School District Board President Gianina Baker said.
Gun violence is a growing concern for parents in Champaign, especially after a recent shooting involving a group of teenagers near Booker T. Washington School.
“I can’t even get my head around how these young children from the City of Washington can go back to school to a place where they were shot and then continue to learn,” said one student during public input.
Last year, the City of Champaign put a plan in place to get to the root of the problem called the Community Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint. The plan included more than half a million dollars for the Champaign school district to go towards extra educational, emotional, and social support. As of this month, they haven’t spent any of it.
“It’s not our community’s fault, or government’s fault, or the fault of what staff we can retain. I think it’s time to really dig deep and look inward at what this district leadership is and is not doing,” said one parent.
Boozer said she wants to work out a plan with parents.
“We want to bring our families together to talk about that,” said Boozer. “So we’re working on a date and time for that as well. But also, we want to have a conversation about how our kids are getting guns in the community.”
Baker closed the meeting by letting families know they aren’t alone in their concerns. She also asked for grace as the district tries to find extra support, including more employees, to help fight the problem.
“We can work together,” Baker said. “I know that we can. We have a lot of smart people, not just in this room and at this table, but as partners. And I know we can figure it out as a community.”
The district is working with city groups to improve safety on campuses. The school board president is encouraging parents and community members to reach out with any recommendations.
The board talked of adding fences, bullet-resistant windows, and enhanced cameras. Urbana and Champaign Police Departments are helping with increased surveillance. The City of Champaign and the Champaign Park District are also adding ambassadors to help during dismissals.