School Intruder: Do your kids know 'the drill'?
February 7, 2013 -- With classroom violence on the rise, there are some things you must know about your child's chances of surviving a school attack in Illinois.
In the past 25 years, there have been more than 40 deadly school shootings in the U.S.
It's been almost two months since the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Connecticut where 26 died.
It's nearly 14 years after the Columbine tragedy in Colorado- the attack that supposedly began a new era of school safety.
The ABC7 I-Team has discovered that when it comes to how Illinois schools are prepared to protect your children from violence, there is confusion and inconsistency.
The I-Team has found that Illinois requires schools to conduct only one law enforcement drill per year and students don't even have to be present.
Because state law doesn't direct schools how to respond to an active shooter, there is a hodge-podge of available tactics.
"The problem has been-we've found consistently around the state is that everyone is doing it a little bit differently," the Security Director of Illinois School Safety Ron Ellis said. "The school safety drill act says you will do certain types and numbers of drills. It does not say how to do them."
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recently sent a video of suggested emergency response tactics to Illinois' 5400 private and public schools, urging the conventional method of locking down the school if there is an active shooter.
"This school safety video has been developed as a best practice guide," the video's narrator says. "Direct everyone to sit quietly against a hard wall or to lie down on the floor."
The Illinois video tells teachers, as a last resort, to individually decide whether they will attack the attacker.
With no single standard across the state, some of the 2.3 million students and more than 150,000 teachers and administrators are turning to a private company that teaches a program known as A.L.I.C.E. which stands for alert-lockdown-inform-counter-evacuate.
"Give those first graders. Give those high school kids give those college kids a chance to be active in deciding what's going to happen with their fate," Response Options Instructor Erin Harris said.
The "C" in A.L.I.C.E., countering, instructs students try to counteract a gunman.
It is a controversial and popular idea run by a Texas company. They are hosting programs for police all this month around Chicago.
"Usually in the kindergarten thru fourth grade range, countering entails moving and sound disturbance toward the active killer; distract the active shooter," Harris said.
The technique is shown in a video made by a middle school film club in Missouri.
"In our upper level grades we can include things like using objects in the room for self defense," Harris said. "Also the technique called swarm where you can address the active killer/active shooter through the use of several individuals to take him down using the extremities."
But there are critics.
The state school safety director says under A.L.I.C.E., the first children to attack would probably be killed and no deaths should be acceptable.
"Would we like to do more? Yes we would like to do more," Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy said.
McCarthy, who is the former Secret Service agent who once took a bullet for President Reagan, is not a fan of young students intervening.
Convincing teachers to step in is difficult enough, according to McCarthy.
"Unfortunately in most cases all the killing is over before the police get there," he said. "And that's what we're stressing now in our school district-we have to buy time. I doubt if I'll be comfortable having the kids attack the attacker."
A.L.I.C.E. instructor Harris is a former suburban Chicago deputy sheriff, a teacher and a mother.
"As a mom, I want my kid to survive," she said. " And if it means that-I have a first grader. Right now his age-appropriate response is to run and yell and to get away as fast as he can. And as a law enforcement officer and as a mom that's what I have told him to do should he ever encounter that type of situation."
A.L.I.C.E. training is scheduled in Lombard and Glenview for later in February, Champaign in June and across the country throughout 2013.
Even as they take steps to protect their own students, The I-Team has learned that Governor Pat Quinn is pushing legislation that could fix some of the problems we found, including doubling the number of annual school drills and requiring students and police to train at the same time for active shooter situations.
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