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District 219 lanyards: Students required to wear IDs this school year

Lanyards aren’t on the list of fall trends this year, but like it or not, Niles Township District 219 students were seen sporting the shoelace-like necklaces with a photo ID card dangling from the end during the first week back to school.

A newly-imposed district-wide security measure that went into effect this school year makes it mandatory for all students and staff in District 219 schools to wear a picture ID above the waist while in school buildings — and school officials are making it clear they plan to fully enforce the new policy.

Teachers and staff stood outside the front entrances of Niles North and Niles West High Schools Tuesday morning greeting students walking in from the parking lots and climbing out of the busses, and reminding the teenagers to put their new school-mandated accessories on.

“There were specific conversations about security held after the Sandy Hook (school) shootings, and it seemed like the now was the appropriate time for a policy like this,” Jim Szczepaniak, community relations director for District 219 said. “We’d also noticed people visiting from other schools saying they were surprised we didn’t already have the policy.”

While many students seemed to accept the new policy, if at least for its security value, many took to social media this week and during the weeks leading up to the first day of school Aug. 20 to voice their disapproval, with one District 219 student, @mikeldykal, poking humor on Twitter by posting a photo of a prison uniform with the caption, “Already planned my outfit for tomorrow…#s’cute but don’t forget dat #lanyard.”

Another student who took to Twitter to voice her dismay said, “The funny thing is, Niles West thinks students are going to wear the lanyards,” tweeted user @marrougi.

District 219’s new ID policy mimics a handful of other high schools in the Chicagoland area that have implemented similar policies in recent years, said Kendall Griffin, assistant principal for operations at Niles West High School.

Griffin, a former assistant principal in Township High School District 211 in Palatine and a former dean of students at Argo Community High School in Summit, Ill. — two school districts where above-the-waist policies have already been put into place — helped District 219 officials write the badge policy and plan an awareness campaign.

“When you look at the scheme of things, I thought District 219 was behind for not having already implemented a policy like this,” Griffin said. “We were just starting it now and I had dealt with these things six years ago.”

Griffin provided the District 219 school board with advice about what he learned from watching the policy begin at the other schools, and made suggestions about the right approach for getting students to wear the lanyards, which he said should be focused on taking a positive approach to promoting the initiative.

During the summer, Griffin worked with school staff to generate awareness of the new policy, even producing a video announcement and creating a poster campaign for back-to-school to advertise the new policy with the slogan “Got ID?”

“It’s about how you campaign the policy, and it’s also about making it something proactive instead of punitive,” Griffin said. “We expect that they’ll have their IDs and that they’ll put them on.”

If a student is seen in the halls or in class without an ID, teachers and school staff are asked to use “soft reminders” to ask them to put it back on, but Griffin said the schools would crack down harder on repeat offenders starting next semester.

While the new ID policy hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, Griffin said he’s not shocked that some students aren’t taking to it kindly, but said students’ attitudes seem to improve with each passing year, and by the third or fourth year putting on the lanyard seems to become part of the regular daily routine.

“It’s typical for students to fight any type of policy change if they’re doing something different than what they did in the past,” Griffin said. “The most important thing is for us to readily ID anyone who is in the building(s) immediately.”

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