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Cary Grove Drill To Include Shooting Blanks In Hallways

UPDATED: 1/29/2013 - 4:30 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A school shooting drill planned for tomorrow in the far northwestern suburbs has many parents upset.

Cary Grove Drill Upsets Parents

According to a letter from Cary-Grove High School principal Jay Sargeant, there will be a code red drill at the school on Wednesday.

It will include somebody shooting blanks from a gun in the hallway "in an effort to provide our teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire."

CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports, during the drill, teachers will keep students in their rooms, lock their doors, and draw their curtains. Police will sweep the building, while someone will fire two shots – blanks – from a starter pistol.

Cary Police Chief Steven Casstevens said, "From the school's request, they want to let the students know what the sound of gunshot might be, should that occur in their school."

But any gunfire at a school – even blanks – had some parents and students shaking their heads.

Parent Kassy Pinter said, "It's probably necessary to have the 'code red' drill, but not really necessary to shoot the blanks in the hallway."

Parent Sharon Miller said the way Cary Grove has planned the code red drill is absurd and also thinks it's not necessary to shoot blanks in the hallway.

"If you need to run a drill, you run a drill," she told WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya. "They run fire drills all the time, but they don't run up and down the hallway with a flamethrower."

Parents were also concerned about some students getting too upset during the exercise.

Pinter and Miller both also pointed out that not all guns sound alike, ranging from a light popping sound to a loud bang.

The parents were also concerned about the notification letter from the school. Pinter said she did not receive it in her email. Miller said she's the only one of the parents she knows who has received it.

Some in the school community endorse the idea.

Substitute teacher Debbie Gummerson said, "Let's put the kids through some training, and maybe we could save some lives that way, should something ever happen."

Parent Dina Coutre said, "Nowadays it's better to be safe than sorry."

School spokesman Jeff Puma said the small number of parents who have contacted the school are evenly split for and against the drill. He said another notification will be going out today, and teachers will discuss the drill plans with students during classes.

Puma said the school has worked closely with the Cary Police Department on the drill plans.

"It was their recommendation that we do this in order to create the knowledge necessary to keep our students safe in an active crisis situation," Puma said.

Pinter and Miller also said they don't like the way police recommend students to be "sitting ducks" in their classrooms if there's a shooter in their school.

They said they'd always taught their children to find a way out of the school if they're not near where the shooting is going on--to run out a door or climb out a window.

Puma said, "I don't believe there would be any school that would tell you to do that, and that's coming from police and emergency management officials."

Last year, Community High School District 155 also used simulated gunshots at another emergency drill at Crystal Lake South High School, but only faculty and staff were present, not students.

The full email:

Dear parents:

At Cary-Grove and across District 155, we make your child's safety our number one priority each day. As a parent, I can assure you that we understand our responsibility to return your child safely at the end of each day. While we take many preventative steps to keep our building secure, we also practice our response should a crisis arise. Some examples include meetings with first responders, a comprehensive crisis response plan, and simulations. We are planning a code red simulation on Wednesday, January 30. We feel it is important to explain the simulation to you in advance so that you and your child might be able to better understand what will take place on Wednesday.

The simulation will take approximately 15-20 minutes, during which time teachers will secure their rooms, draw curtains, and keep their students from traveling throughout the building. Please note that we will be firing blanks in the hallway in an effort to provide our teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire. Our school resource officer and other members of the Cary Police Department will assist us in sweeping the building to ensure that all students are in a secure location during the drill. At the conclusion of the drill, we will take some time to process what occurred and then we will return to our normal classroom routine.

I encourage you to discuss the drill with your student both before it happens and after. These drills help our students and staff to be prepared should a crisis occur, but it may cause some students to have an emotional reaction. In those cases, your voice may provide reassurances of the drill's importance. Additionally, we have trained social workers on staff who can speak directly with your child should he or she need added support.

Should you have any questions, please contact me or any member of the Cary-Grove's administrative team. Together, we can keep our school a safe place for your child to learn and grow.


Jay Sargeant

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