MORTON — The Morton School District wants to make sure it's doing all it can to keep its students safe.

To achieve that goal, the district intends to hire a consulting firm that will analyze security at all six of the district's schools and make recommendations for improvements.

Representatives from three firms will be interviewed by phone this week by Superintendent Jeff Hill and board member Kevin Austin, who will make a hiring recommendation to the board.

"There are top-notch people in these companies," Austin said Tuesday at a board meeting. "They're ex-military, FBI, Homeland Security. ... They know their stuff."

Hill said it appears the security assessment will cost the district between $5,000 and $20,000, depending upon what the district wants to gain from the study.

"Even $5,000 seems like a lot to spend, but if you're not prepared for an event, the cost is much higher," said board member Tom Neeley.

The study will take about a month, Hill said, and the consulting firm will inform local law enforcement agencies before beginning its work.

Also at Tuesday's board meeting:

* Mental health therapist and certified alcohol and drug counselor Walt Nunnally from Illinois Family Counseling reported he helped Morton High School students with substance abuse problems involving heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, LSD, marijuana, synthetic marijuana, alcohol and e-cigarettes during the past school year. That information was part of Nunnally's annual report to the board.

Nunnally met with 117 students (72 boys and 45 girls) individually during the school year. Forty-nine of the students were freshmen. In addition to 19 instances of substance abuse, among the other issues addressed by Nunnally with students and parents were social concerns (73), behavioral issues (71), family (66), depression (52), grief/loss (34), suicide/self-harm (33), anxiety (29) and bullying (15). Seven students were hospitalized due to mental health issues.

The therapist met with 132 students individually during the previous school year. Hill said the fewer visits could be due to the hiring of two additional counselors at the high school.

* Board members gave Neeley the necessary approval to seek the office of president of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Neeley is serving his second one-year term as IASB vice president. Typically, the vice president moves on to serve two one-year terms as president, followed by two one-year terms as past president.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.