It’s back to school time across the state and this year a new law requires an active shooter drill as part of safety planning at every school in Illinois.
The active-shooter or, law enforcement evacuation drill, must be done within the first 90 days of the school year, under the law, which went into effect Jan. 1.
John Quast is a member of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force School Safety Working Group. He’s also a lieutenant with the Peoria County Sheriff’s Department. He said the drills vary from school to school and are designed to be age-appropriate for different grades.
In Peoria County, he said the drills don’t involve someone role-playing as an assailant.
“Everybody has got their own interpretation of what they’re supposed to do during the drill,” he said.
For younger students, such as kindergarteners and first graders, the drills may involve paying a hide-and-seek game to teach what to do during an active shooter situation.
He said the goal is to teach students what to do in the event of an emergency without traumatizing them.
There has been some push back to these types of drills. Quast said the drills are beneficial. The benefits including building a better relationship between the schools, students and law enforcement. The drills also help the teachers, staff and students’ practice, which helps them remain calm during an actual emergency.
Quest said he understands concerns that these drills could normalize school shootings, however, he said: “Bad things will happen if we’re not prepared.”