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School safety takes another step

Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 3:08 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 3:12 p.m. CDT

School safety has been kicked up a notch with the passage of a new law requiring school districts to have school shooting drills.

On July 1, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new law which requires Illinois schools to hold active safety drills with local law enforcement agencies to ensure they are as prepared as possible in the event of a shooting incident. The new shooting drill must take place in each school building where students are taught, and must occur during the academic year.

Previously, each school had to conduct a minimum of six drills each year, including three school fire evacuation drills, a bus evacuation drill, a severe weather/shelter-in-place drill, and a law enforcement drill.

Bureau Valley Superintendent Jim Whitmore said the written changes in the new law look to be “very minor,” adding it only requires one more drill that has to involve law enforcement to help prepare for a school shooting incident. Although the written changes are minor, the concept is huge, Whitmore said.

With the new law still fresh, Whitmore said he will feel more comfortable with the concept once he is able to sit down with local law enforcement and talk out specifics on how the drill will unfold.

The new law is most likely a hot item on local law enforcement radar, and they will be working to make sure they are fully trained and available and will be advised on how the drills will have to be conducted, Whitmore said.

Since the new law states the school shooting drill must take place in each school building where students are taught, Bureau Valley’s drills will include BV North in Walnut, BV South in Buda, BV Wyanet, and the high school and the Bureau County Behavior Disorder Program, both in Manlius.

On the surface, the new law looks to just be just one more thing to be done to assure safety for students and staff, Whitmore said.

“If we can prepare ourselves, it will be a good thing,” Whitmore said. “Once we get a little more direction on what’s going on, we will do what’s asked of us.”

On Tuesday, Spring Valley Elementary School District, Superintendent James Hermes said the new shooting drill will be another safeguard for students.

“We welcome any changes to the current laws that will help protect our students,” Hermes said. “We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with the First Responders in Spring Valley, and we look forward to working even closer to continue to provide safe schools.”

On Tuesday, Princeton Elementary School Superintendent Tim Smith said he thinks it is a good idea to have a school shooting drill in place.

PES will work closely with the Princeton Police Department and Princeton Fire Department to help plan the shooting drill, Smith said. The people in both departments are professionals and know how best to plan the drill. They take their jobs seriously, and he (Smith) believes they have a soft spot in their hearts for schools, Smith said.

“We will lean heavily on them because they are the experts,” Smith said. “This (shooting drill) is something we will practice, practice and practice, and hope to God we will never have to use.”

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