Undercover Evaluation Finds Security Breaches at Chicago Area Schools

Undercover Evaluation Finds Security Breaches at Chicago Area Schools

A security firm’s recent evaluation of Park Ridge –Niles School District 64 schools revealed visitors were allowed to enter buildings without permission, walk around unattended and even take photographs.

In a Jan. 23 report to the board of education, Paul Timm of RETA Security, a Lamont-based school security consulting firm hired by District 64, outlined the security breaches that occurred when undercover RETA employees visited the schools and attempted to gain access.

Timm said that the breaches occurred at the sic schools that do not have locked entry vestibules.

Timm reference incidents where undercover security team members where buzzed into schools, but did not report to the main office, giving them full access to the school building. He described how two of the team members gained access to the building by following behind a visitor who was being buzzed into a school through the main entrance, allowing them to enter the building without stating their purpose for being there. All the members who gained entry this way wondered through the schools without any question why they were there.

"No one addressed those two individuals, a male and a female, the entire time they were in the building, which was probably 10 minutes, taking photos of boiler rooms, auditoriums, cafeterias," Timm said. "In four instances, the female RETA security person did hit the intercom button from the outside and was asked to state a purpose for being there. She stated she was there to visit a former teacher and was granted permission to come into the building. She did not report to the office in any of those cases."

Timm reported that one team member was allowed to enter the school through an exterior side door. He said the door was opened by a teacher’s aide with “no questions asked.”

Timm suggested the lack of locked vestibules gave schools a higher chance of a breach as they were not able to cherry-pick who comes and goes. In some cases, a schools’ main office may be down the hall from the main entrance. In a best case scenario, a person would have to come into the vestibule and enter into the main office right away to check-in or state their purpose for being there.

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