Mass school shootings: A plan to get students home safe

As parents, we never want to feel anxiety about the safety of our most precious gifts while they’re at school. And the shootings at schools like Parkland High School and Sandy Hook Elementary are proof that this can happen anywhere, including Illinois.

We need to ensure our schools are prepared to prevent the worst. That’s why it was important for me to review the Illinois Schools Safety Act to better understand how our schools plan to respond to active shooters – our children and educators safety depends on it.


What I learned:

I was relieved to discover that Illinois requires schools to partner with local law enforcement agencies to conduct annual active shooter drills (also known as law enforcement drills). Further, the law requires local school boards to meet annually to review each school’s emergency crisis response plan.

I have taken the time to speak with both local and federal law enforcement, and we identified improvements that have the potential to save lives. The strategies will focus on raising the minimum requirements for active shooter drills and expanding standards for preparedness.

Here’s a closer look at the strategies:

Active Shooter Drills:

Under this new amendment, schools would be required to add realism to their faculty active shooter drills by:

A) Role playing (leading people away from realistic bad guys)

B) Using non-lethal simunition (e.g. foam based projectiles)

C) Training in low light

D) Simulating gun fire sound

E) Training at full speed

Dynamic training will help school faculty function at a higher level during an actual active shooter incident because training will have taught them to cope with heightened stress. Our law enforcement consultants emphasized the importance of training faculty under the conditions that they will be expected to perform under.

Preparedness review:

Under this amendment, schools would be required to include in their annual report to the State Board of Education awareness around innovations in active shooter response strategies.

This amendment is key because I believe our school districts should be required to stay up to date on the latest technology and training solutions that can help keep our schools safe. The more we’re aware, the better prepared we can be. Many schools are adopting these innovations around the country and some in Illinois, and others should too.

The report would have to show research in four key areas:

First response: Strategies to reduce the time it takes to alert first responders of an active shooter event (e.g. use of radios and first responder smartphone apps)

Resource officer training: Training resource officers to quickly locate, stop or disrupt an active shooter before backup arrives on the scene (e.g. Solo engagement training)

Access to the building: Strategies to better prevent forced entry into school buildings (e.g. ballistic glass)

Less-than-lethal: Understanding products that have the ability to stop or disrupt an active shooter but are less likely to kill (restraint devices, paintball w/chemical irritant).