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updated: 6/30/2014 8:49 PM

Private schools to continue active shooter training after new legislation

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By Kevin Modelski
kmodelski@dailyherald.com

While it's not uncommon for some educators to voice concerns about unfunded state mandates, private school administrators are saying the requirements of the latest one won't be too different from what they're already doing.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation on June 21 that requires the state's 1,800 private schools to conduct annual drills to prepare for potential school shootings and to review security. Several private school administrators in the suburbs said, however, that the legislation will only reinforce the procedures and preparations the schools have been completing for years.

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"We have been, for several years on an annual basis, going through lockdown drills," said the Rev. Corey Brost, the president of St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. "Now we will continue to do that."

Quinn signed legislation last year requiring all public schools to complete active shooter training, but now private schools fall under the same umbrella.

Brost said a typical lockdown situation involves informing teachers that a drill will take place, but students will not receive word of it. On the day of the drill, the whole school must complete security measures, like locking classroom doors, and wait for feedback from law enforcement.

"When the drill is going on, a police officer will roam the halls to make sure proper procedures have taken place," Brost said.

Brost said there will likely be additional annual training requirements for the whole faculty next year.

Elgin Academy has also worked hand in hand with law enforcement to complete security drills and effectively prepare students and teachers for school shootings.

"We have a great relationship with the law enforcement in Elgin," said Seth Hanford, the head of Elgin Academy. "They work with us every year, and we intend to do the same thing with this training."

Carmel High School in Mundelein has taken a hands-on approach with its active shooter training. In 2012, law enforcement tested the school's ability to handle an armed intruder by performing lifelike simulations of a school shooting.

"The drill involved realistic situations involving simulated fatalities and victims played by faculty and staff volunteers," said Amy Egan, the marketing director at Carmel.

Egan said the school conducted another drill during the 2013-14 school year, but it wasn't as full-blown.

Some area private elementary schools have prepared for emergencies by running lockdown drills and checking school security.

"We've taken security measures like making sure our blinds and windows close properly," said Patty Pedigo, an administrator at Bethany Lutheran.

Pedigo said Bethany Lutheran is under video surveillance so administrators know who enters the building at all times.

Maryann O'Neill, the principal of Montini High School in Lombard, said she can already see positive signs of the school's active shooter drills.

"The benefit of training is that the students know exactly what to do and where to go," O'Neill said. "Every time we do it, it gets faster and faster."

O'Neill said the police give the school a situation that it must react to. The situation progresses through different stages, and the school is given immediate feedback on how it performed.

"Because we practiced, it went smoothly," O'Neill said

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