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updated: 1/30/2013 10:27 AM

Cary-Grove parents question simulated gunshots in drill

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Some parents are questioning a decision to have a safety drill Wednesday at Cary-Grove High School that will include simulated gunshots in the hallway.

The blank shots will come from a starter's gun fired at the end of the 15-minute "code red" drill, said Jeff Puma, director of communications for Community High School District 155.

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Some students just don't know what a gunshot sounds like, and gaining that knowledge could help them react more quickly in case of emergency, Puma said.

"If we can save just an additional kid because he hears (a gunshot), or she hears it, and they get into a classroom quicker, that's what we want," he said.

But parent Sharon Miller called the idea "absurd."

"Drills are important, absolutely," she said. "The issue I've got is running up and down the hallways with a gun. I think that's wrong. During fire drills they're not running up and down the hallways with flame thrower, are they? I am not anti-gun in any way, shape or form, but I think this way of doing it is wrong."

Parent Kassy Pinter said many parents are upset.

"A lot of my friends are really, really fired up about it, but I'm on the fence," she said. "It's unfortunate that they have to have a drill like this. I think the drill is necessary, but I think that shooting blanks in the hallways is a little bit over the top. That's further desensitizing our kids to violence," she said.

Some parents were notified via email about the upcoming drill, but many weren't, Pinter and Miller said.

The district attempted to notify parents via email on Monday, but due to a technical problem, many emails didn't arrive, Puma said. Another email went out Tuesday, when the district also posted information on its website, Puma said.

Puma said the idea of including simulated gunshots came during a joint meeting between the Cary-Grove student resource officer and school administrators; Cary Police Chief Steve Casstevens said it came from administrators, and police just worked with them to make that happen.

"I can understand parents' concerns, but it will be in a very controlled environment," he said.

The drill will begin with an announcement that it is about to begin; students and teachers will take their designated positions, and teachers will lock doors and draw shades and blinds, Casstevens said.

Police and school officials will conduct a sweep of the building, and then there will be an announcement that gunfire will be simulated, he said.

"In light of recent situations and school shootings, it's important that we continue to hold these drills and continue to improve on that," Casstevens said. "It's really sad it's come to a point in our society that we need to do this, but we need to remember it's our goal to protect all students."

Another red code drill -- the first in recent memory -- took place at Crystal Lake South High School on Dec. 18, but it didn't include simulated gun shots, Puma said.

However, past drills for teachers have included simulated gunfire, he said.

"If there had been no Newtown," Puma said, referring to the Connecticut school shooting in November, "I don't know if we would have included simulated gunfire."

Social workers will be available at Cary-Grove after the drill should any students need to talk to them, he said.

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