Taking a look inside the Stevenson bubble

Stevenson High School has made headlines in the past few months due to incidents regarding school safety, but according to students, they have never felt safer on campus.

On Dec. 4, 2015, Lincolnshire police arrested a SHS junior after he allegedly brought a gun to school. Nearly two months later, on Jan. 28, 2016, Lincolnshire police arrested another SHS junior who allegedly came to school with a knife and stun gun.

Even so, the majority of SHS students do not worry about their safety while at school. According to a Statesman survey in which 168 students were asked to rate on a scale of one to ten how safe they feel at school on any given day (one being not safe at all; ten being completely safe), 92.3 percent of respondents selected a rating of seven or above.

There are many factors that could explain why so many students aren’t overly afraid, according to sociology teacher Chris Salituro.
For one, Salituro believes that there is a “bubble” surrounding Stevenson students when it comes to their perspective on violent crimes at school.

“Students have a sense that this is a community with not a lot of violence and not a lot of trouble or hatred,” Salituro said. “It’s relatively open and relatively tolerant. In reality, there’s no reason for them to be afraid here.”

Salituro makes sure to point out that there is a bubble around most high schoolers in America. He believes everyone lives in bubbles–they’re just different bubbles.

“America is very divided–politically, socioeconomically and racially,” Salituro said. “For example, in this community, all my students, no matter what their background is, are very familiar with Judaism. They’re surrounded by Jewish students, they see temples and they know about Jewish holidays. You can go to other places in America where you’ll meet people who have never met a Jewish person. It’s just the reality of our society.”

According to Salituro, the bubble that exists at one school isn’t necessarily the same bubble that exists a few towns over.
Having attended both Stevenson and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Nick Perozzi ’14 is able to reflect on the nature of the Stevenson bubble versus that of UIUC. According to Perozzi, SHS students are very fortunate to have less firsthand exposure to school violence.

“I hear students from other suburban high schools talk about fights in lunchrooms that would happen frequently,” Perozzi said. “Stevenson students would never know it, but the amount of fights and other incidents that happen at Stevenson is comparatively nothing.”

In particular, Perozzi believes that the many safety measures Stevenson has in place help contribute to SHS students’ collective feeling that they are protected at school. According to Perozzi, the Stevenson security team is pivotal in putting students’ minds at ease.
“Physically speaking, for a public high school, I could not have felt safer [at Stevenson],” Perozzi said. “With a full-time police officer at our school, plus an additional crew of security guards always patrolling the building, we are always being looked after. The administration does a good job of prioritizing and efficiently taking care of our safety.”

Current SHS students echo Perozzi’s reasoning. According to the Statesman survey, 51 percent of the 92.3 percent of students who gave Stevenson a rating of seven or above in terms of safety cited SHS security guards as a key component of what makes them feel so safe at school.

“I feel very safe,” Scott James ’17 said. “Even after the gun incident, I don’t feel threatened at all when I’m at school.”
James cites the community in which he and the majority of Stevenson students live as a determining component of why he feels so safe at school. James believes that most SHS students grow up with the expectation that they won’t encounter school violence.

“We’re not afraid because it’s not something we think about very often,” James said. “Most of the people from this area are here [at Stevenson] to get a good education. That’s what we focus on. We’re all raised with that sort of expectation in mind.”

Even beyond security guards and an affluent community, Salituro believes that the SHS administration has made lots of changes to the school’s culture over the years in order to minimize the chances of a violent attack occurring at Stevenson. According to Salituro, two things in particular have had the greatest impact.

“For one, Stevenson offers many clubs and after school activities. Research shows that these opportunities help give someone an identity, so that if they do feel threatened or made fun of, there’s that identity to fall back; they have a place to go,” Salituro said. “The other thing is that Stevenson has worked hard to prevent the use of derogatory words like ‘gay’ or ‘fag’ that attack someone’s masculinity––which is often a determining factor in random school shootings.”

All of these factors help explain why, despite recent incidents regarding school safety, Stevenson students do not report feeling any less safe on campus. According to Salituro, the simple act of recognizing that the SHS community lives in bubble is key to understanding the world around us.

“Is there a bubble? Yeah, sure there’s a bubble,” Salituro said. “But are we safe within our bubble? Well, generally, yes, we are.”