Election Day SOL: calling in safe

As I previously stated and repeat here again, our mindset must change from one of resignation to one of advocacy. We must act to make those changes that reduce the chance it will happen in the future. We must have the courage to choose our children and protect the future of our nation.

superintendent of my children’s school district

Those are very strong words written about safety in our schools. So imagine my surprise when I still found the following passage still included in my daughter’s school newsletter from the principal.

Consolidated Election will take place on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, and [our school] is a designated polling place. Voting will take place in the gym and at no time will voters or poll workers interact with students. Security measures are in place to ensure student safety, and there will be an increased police presence throughout the day.

my daughter’s principal

I am flabbergasted that when there are other options available to the school district that we are having in person learning on an Election Day in a school full of 5-12 year old children. This, just one week after a school shooting at an elementary school. Please rationalize this for me. My Mama Bear came out. And I took to email bombarding our superintendent with very disappointing results. See the exchanges below.

Given yesterday’s mass shooting in an elementary school, I encourage the district to reconsider using any school as a polling place while students are in session. I know that [our elementary school] is a polling place as my own child attends. [Another district junior high school] is my own polling place. As a local election, I assume that it is typically not overly busy, but that is just not a risk I think we should be taking with our students when there are other alternatives. I encourage an elearning day for this year and then scheduling all future elections either on non-attendance days or at other locations such as parks, churches, etc. 

Given the tumultuous political climate in all communities, this seems like an unnecessary risk. The school that I work at discontinued this practice many years ago. All voting days are always a teacher institute days at a location that is not being used for polling. Thank you.

Karyn—mother of two school aged children

CRICKETS. I was not the only person who sent an email. I know at least a dozen others. Almost everyone else got an email back. But then the entire district got this email. Please note the last paragraph. I quoted it above in this blog.

Dear [School District] community:

Another senseless tragedy occurred this week at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. This school shooting impacts us all on a most profound level, and [our district] stands with the Covenant School and Nashville communities during this difficult time. We now know that thoughts and prayers are not enough, and we can only prepare to the best of our ability to react to these situations and provide social emotional resources to students who may need help.

Thanks to our collaboration with the [local] Police Department, there will be a greater police presence at all of our schools throughout next week, with a special emphasis on Tuesday, April 4 at [four district schools] for the Consolidated Election. Please do not be concerned if you see additional police around our schools next week; this is a proactive measure and part of our continued cooperation with the [local] Police Department. We are privileged to have them as partners in our school community.

As we have detailed in prior communications, our schools all have secured entrances with cameras, and all visitors must present a government issued photo ID. Safety drills are conducted at each of our schools throughout the year, and staff receive additional training. A crisis committee made up of district and school administrators and representatives from the [local] Police Department, [local] Fire Protection District, [local] Park District, and others meet every year to review plans and procedures to ensure coordination in the event of an emergency. We also routinely work closely with our Police Department to prepare for any level of security threat. Police and security experts refer to these efforts as making our schools “hardened,” and we have been told that our efforts in [our town] are in line with the latest strategies.

As I previously stated and repeat here again, our mindset must change from one of resignation to one of advocacy. We must act to make those changes that reduce the chance it will happen in the future. We must have the courage to choose our children and protect the future of our nation.

Dr. Superintendent Man

Please explain how that last paragraph aligns with keeping schools open. I can tell you that it unquestionably does not.

Respectfully, Dr. Superintendent Man, this is not enough. If we want to make change, then take action. Move to remote learning on Tuesday. If we are so concerned with who we let into our buildings on any other day of the week but are going to let anyone in on Tuesday to vote, even in a controlled way--it's hypocritical. 

I understand there will be police presence. I understand that we will “make every effort” to keep students safe. But you aren’t. Unidentified strangers will be one wall away from students. If anyone wants to, they will be able to break through a barrier and gain access to innocent children and already over stressed teachers. This is not appropriate given the circumstances.

Teachers are scared. Parents are scared. Children are scared. And the optics are that the district doesn’t care enough to make the make the call to move to a system already in place to make the entire community feel safe and supported.

Making every effort would be to not allow students in the buildings while they are being used for polling.

Karyn B
Parent of two district students

Again. CRICKETS. Many other parents got emails back. Nothing for me. I’m beginning to think he doesn’t like me much. As Election Day grows nearer and parents are getting no additional information from the district, I wrote again.

Dr. Superintendent Man,

I’m assuming you are overwhelmed with the amount of emails you have been receiving about choosing to have schools open on Tuesday while the general public will be allowed into several buildings for voting. I’m glad for it. I hope it is giving you cause for reconsideration. Parents are begging for you to avoid a risk that is completely unnecessary. Why aren’t you listening to them?

I wanted to bring an additional perspective to the table. Think of these young students, having just been witness to a recent mass shooting in school not much unlike their own. They watched on the news, internet, and social media children who are just like them, running from a building while a gunman was inside shooting at their peers and trusted adults. Who was outside the school? The police. Now, on Tuesday, these very same kiddos who witnessed this, are supposed to go to school and see the police all day. Do you think that will not have an effect on their mental well-being? Will they think there is a bad guy inside? My own children are asking me this every day. Is this not traumatic for them? Isn’t this exactly what we have been avoiding with trauma informed practices in education?

Are we not worried about our educational staff who are already on the verge of leaving the profession? I am an educator. I work in buildings that frequently have police presence. And each time, I am shaken to the core. Why are they there? Is it for a student? Staff member? Medical emergency? Unwanted visitor? A dangerous intruder? Where I work, each time police need to enter the building, we are put in a stay in place hold so our students don’t need to witness police presence in the building. Why? Because just seeing the police for our children, especially those of color, can be a traumatizing experience. Yet we are expecting them to see them all day on Tuesday and have that not affect them at all. Not to mention, police presence has done little to prevent mass shootings in the past—please look at Uvalde.

I just cannot understand why we would risk the potential for our students and staff to be terrorized. There is always the potential for danger in a school. This is the horrific reality. But some polling place volunteers, a couple of police officers, and some rickety cafeteria tables are not going to stop an intruder who already has access to the building from exiting the gym and entering the doors to where my children are attempting to safely learn. I’m uncertain why you seem to think that this is a good idea when there are alternatives in place.

E-Learning is a tool that we have learned is invaluable. It kept our students safe during the height of Covid. It is used to keep children and staff safe from weather which poses a risk. So why, then, when there is a true danger of someone gaining access to where students will be sitting ducks, why are we not using this tool? It seems like a potential legal liability at best. I cannot even think of the worst potential outcome without crying.

I beg of you, along with the many MANY other parents who have written and called over the last several days, use an elearning day.

Karyn B
parent of two district children

I finally received a rather condescending email in return.

Dear Ms. B:

I want to thank you for your emails and I understand your concerns, which I think were very thoughtful and thorough. After speaking with and working with the [local] Police Department to have an enhanced presence at all our schools throughout the next week, I believe that we will be as safe next week at all of our schools as we would on a normal school day or before or after school programming.

I understand that some parents may not share those beliefs, and I appreciate your willingness to share your differing views with me. And although it is my preference that students attend next week, including Tuesday, I fully respect the decision of parents to keep their students home based on these beliefs. Again, I want to thank you for communicating with me and expressing your concerns regarding my decision.

Ooookaaaay then. So. I called my kids in safe today. They were not sick. They were safe. When I left the messages I said they could tell Dr. Superintendent Man that Mrs. B said her kids were called in safe because he was refusing to take the steps necessary to keep them safe in school. Then I sent these last emails.

Dear Dr. Superintendent Man,

I sent this to my child’s teacher and principal. I’m extremely disappointed. I will be approaching the School Board to express my concerns and expectation that schools will not have student attendance days while being used as polling places.


Good evening,

We have made the decision to keep [our child] home tomorrow. My husband and I are just not comfortable with the school being used as a polling place while students are there especially given last week’s incident in TN. Additional police presence, some election judges, and a few rickety cafeteria tables are not solution to a completely avoidable problem. I work in schools. I know exactly what tomorrow will look like. I have been in your shoes for at least one if not two elections in schools for the last 24 years. It’s not a risk we will be taking tomorrow. Every other school I know being used as a polling place tomorrow does not have students in attendance. This is just dangerous. God forbid something happens.

I emailed Dr. Superintendent Man several times over the last week. I included several differing points of view including how just the mere presence of police for many of our students is a traumatizing event. I reiterated the district’s dedication to trauma informed education and SEL. I included research showing how armed police officers at schools do not prevent school shootings. I included a solution (e-learning day). I begged and pleaded. My request, along with dozens and dozens of others, was basically met with sorry..but you’re just going to have to deal with my decision. Hope your kid comes to school. It is so unfortunate that my child, and so many others, will be missing a day of learning because Dr. Superintendent Man chose to ignore the plea for safety first. Taking the risk to keep schools open tomorrow is unacceptable, unnecessary, and irresponsible. I’m sorry you are in this position.

I know that neither of you are part of the decision making process for keeping schools open while being used as polling places. I’m sure both of you are very apprehensive for tomorrow’s election. Just know that I pray for a peaceful, uneventful, and boring day. I just wanted to let you know our thoughts.

[Our children] will return on Wednesday.

Karyn B

I, along with many MANY other Mama and Papa Bears have taken up the cause. We are writing our County Clerk, County Trustees, Illinois Representatives and Senators, US Representatives and Senators and school board members demanding change. This should not happen again. They don’t know me. They don’t know what they have done. This will now be my entire personality. I will be speaking at every meeting. I will make it my personal mission to keep my children safe everyday while in school. If I thought they hated me before, they surely will before this is all over.

I am writing for the Two Writing Teachers’ weekly Tuesday Slice of Life writing activity.


  1. Whew! What a lot of emails & heartache. How I long to be able to call all of our children in “safe” – what a wonderful way to put it. I hope that your community listens and you all find ways to keep them safe – during elections and every day.


  2. Go, you! I read this, flabbergasted that ANYONE would consider running a polling place full of strangers WHILE SCHOOL WAS IN SESSION! There are no words to express how baffling and upsetting a decision this is. I vote in every election, and I have NEVER had a polling place that was a school. To the best of my recollection, my parents never voted in a school. I have been teaching for 25 years, and have never had a polling place in my school while school was in session. That is insane. I literally read this just after reading a newspaper article about my state proposing putting “panic buttons” in every classroom so we can press them in an emergency. The article also dredged up the complaint that “teachers don’t follow policies and prop open doors.” I told my husband (with a lot of arm-waving), that maybe they should actually look at WHY teachers prop open doors and fix that instead of victim blaming us for shootings. I see now that the problem is even deeper. It seems like your school district values anything more than the safety of the students. This is so sad.


    • I’m so fired up. I would like to say I am speechless but I clearly had and continue to have so much to say on this topic. It is pretty commonplace in Illinois. Where I grew up, my parents’ polling place (and my first) was a school. When living on my own in 2 different apartments, both were in schools. My short time living in our first house and with my dad were not in schools. But I am in a school now. I just don’t see how the risks could possibly outweigh the benefits.


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