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Champaign Central Chronicle

Champaign Central Chronicle

Security Measures on the Rise Across Unit 4 Following Shooting, Criticism by City Council


On September 26th, Champaign Community Unit 4 School District Superintendent Dr. Sheila Boozer announced the district will soon be installing weapon detection systems at all three of its middle schools. This announcement came after criticism by members of the Champaign City Council over a lack of spending on the half a million dollar grant the district received for the City’s Community Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint, and after five youths were arrested in connection to a shooting in front of Booker T. Washington STEM Academy while students were outside playing.
This is not the first time new safety measures have been considered for school districts across East Central Illinois. Over a year ago, Champaign’s Unit 4 and Urbana’s District 116 became the first area school districts to install weapon detection systems at their high schools, following multiple violent incidents that went on the rise across high schools after the pandemic. This summer, Danville and Rantoul’s school districts announced they’d also implement weapon detection systems in their high schools.
However, Unit 4 is the first school district to implement these measures on the middle school level, after Dr. Boozer told the board, “We provided weapon detection machines and systems at both high schools, now we are going to be moving some into our middle schools and they’ll be the next step.”
Unit 4 was notably criticized by the city council in late September, after spending none of the $526,620 granted by the City of Champaign for its Community Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint it was granted the year before. As a result, at the next board meeting a few days afterward on September 26th it was highlighted in defense by Dr. Boozer that the district had been previously using portions of its own $32 million COVID relief grant on district safety, most notably the lighting project at Garden Hills Academy, and the metal detection systems at Central and Centennial High Schools.
“Unit 4 is an educational institution,” stated Dr. Boozer during the board meeting, “I just want to remind we’re educational, we’re not a law enforcement agency, our number one job is to educate the students in our district.” Dr. Boozer later went on to further defend the district against criticism and point out the current understaffing issue across all jobs by stating “Just because we have access to funding for a project does not equate to always ensuring that proper personnel is going to be available.”
All of these events follow the shooting near BTW on September 14th, leading to the arrests of five individuals between 11-18 years old. While no injuries were reported as a result of the gunfire, stray bullets struck the school while it was in session.
Following the recent shooting in front of BTW, Unit 4 released a new safety update for the school, which The Chronicle obtained through Stacey Moore, Unit 4’s Chief Communications Officer.
Inside the update, Unit 4 mentions cooperation between Unit 4 Security, the City of Champaign, the Champaign Park District Ambassadors, the Champaign Police Department, and Urbana Police Department in the general area around the school, with the aim of increasing safety around BTW.
Notable important parts of the safety update at BTW include Champaign Police assigning extra patrol if available before and after school, Urbana police increasing patrol in the nearby neighborhoods within its jurisdiction, and city ambassadors being present to talk to families/staff at BTW’s Parent Teacher Conferences on October 12-13.
“We have approved a floating Security Guard that will be assigned to Booker T” announced Dr. Boozer during the board meeting on October 9th when going over the safety update in-person. “We are researching fencing, how much it’ll cost, thinking about the possibility of bullet resistant windows, not sure if that’s something we can actually do, but we’re researching it.” Implying a possibility for the district to soon install fences and bullet resistant windows to protect some of its schools in the future.
Nessa Bleill is one of the student leaders of Champaign Central High School’s chapter of Students Demand Action, a club which campaigns against gun violence, and in favor of gun control, most notably in response to mass shootings in America. Bleill herself is a survivor of the July Fourth Parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois in 2022. She spoke to the school board at its October 9th meeting.
“It’s been 15 months since the shooting and I’ve still not been able to go back to the area of downtown Highland Park where I laid on the curb and feared for my life,” Bleill told the school board. “I can’t even wrap my head around how these young children from Booker T. Washington can go back to school, see the place where their window was shot through, and then continue to learn.”
Bleill believed the city’s criticism of Unit 4 was justified, stating “Unit 4 accepted the large sum of money that was offered to them, which led the city to trust that they would use it responsibly and effectively. The city was let down and that will hurt the relationship between them and the district.”
However, when asked about her thoughts on if passing through Central’s own weapon detection systems daily made her feel more or less safe, Bleill thought “I don’t think they do either. I feel pretty much the same either way. I just feel like they are not as effective as they could be.” In a demand to board members towards the end of her speech, Bleill declared, “We expect more from our leaders, we want progress rather than seeing more excuses.”

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Adam Edwards, Opinions Editor
Hello, my name is Adam Edwards (Class of 2025) and I am the new Opinions Editor with The Champaign Chronicle.  I began writing articles with The Chronicle in August of 2023, and assumed the Opinions Editor position in Janurary 2024. Feel free to contact me in the links below.

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