Sheer chaos: Suburban high school dealing with student fights, packed classrooms, bus shortage

A suburban high school is dealing with issues that include a series of fights and bus shortages.

In 2019, the school board voted to close Rich East High School in Park Forest. Since the pandemic, this is the first time all the kids are back in the consolidated schools and parents say it is causing sheer chaos.

Video inside the lunchroom earlier this week at the Rich Township High School STEM Campus in Olympia Fields shows students waiting to board buses to head home. One hall monitor was hurt trying to break up a fight.

Twenty-five hundred students are shuttled between the STEM Campus and the school location in Richton Park throughout the day. Their schedule is similar to college students.


However, with downtime during the school day and a shortage of space, there is not enough staff to monitor where students are at all times.

There are also reports of overcrowding in classrooms and a school bus shortage that makes it hard to keep the teens separated.

Those working around the students say it is a tough environment.

"It's starting to be like dangerous conditions. The morale is horrible, nobody wants to come to work, they're concerned about their safety," one person said.

"Just recently the board approved for us to hire a private security force, and so we trained them this week and then on Monday we should be fully staffed with our security force, which we think is going to really help to quell some of the anxiety in the building," said Dr. Johnnie Thomas, District 227 Superintendent.

The superintendent says he has identified about 15 students that have behavioral issues and they are working to give them the support they need.