DOLTON, Ill. (CBS) — The CBS 2 Morning Insiders recently tagged along in Dolton to see an active shooter drill in a public high school – amid changing safety practices with the increase of mass shootings.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory has learned that every Illinois school must conduct such trainings with students in the building.
When Victory came to Thornridge High School in Dolton, it was otherwise a typical Tuesday.
But preparation for what would happen at the end of second period took months – and reflects the sad reality for students all over the state.
WEB EXTRA: Watch A Student Video On The New Emergency Plan For Armed Intruders:
Police with guns drawn entered the school and began scouring the building, and students also had to participate in the drill.
New for 2019, all Illinois districts and their local police departments need to coordinate and complete one active shooter drill within the first 90 days of classes, in case anything needs to be practiced again.
“So the first thing we did was we barricaded the doors,” said senior Sonja Bradley.
Bradley described the lockdown process happening on the other side.
“It was kind of scary in the moment, in the beginning,” she said. “It was kind of triggering to actually move the tables.”
But hiding is not the top choice anymore. Evacuation is.
Nowadays, students and teachers are taught to run outside if they are not in the part of the school where a shooter is reported.
Another change is using straightforward language instead of secret words. A message heard over the intercom system during the Thornridge drill went, “The armed intruder has been spotted in the B-100 hallway.”
“You have people making deliveries; parents coming in, and they may not know the codes,” said Paul Adams of the Illinois. “So you want everyone to just to understand what’s going on at that moment.”
Adams posed as Thornridge High’s fake shooter. The officers participating in the drill took him away in handcuffs after finding him in a classroom.
Adams said students can learn from the drills in many venues beyond school.
“If they’re at a grocery store, if they’re at a bank, if they’re at a mall, if they’re at a movie theater where we’re seeing these shootings, they can apply these skills,” he said.
This past summer, there were multiple murders in the Dolton community. Thus, Victory had to ask District 205 Supt. Nathaniel Cunningham what he would say to parents who might worry that such a drill could cause trauma.
“I need to prepare my students to be as safe as possible at all times. If that brings up some trauma, we will deal with that trauma on a daily basis, but they have to be prepared,” he said. “It’s our world now.”
“Just with the media and certain things happening in Dolton in itself, it’s kind of, for lack of a better word, scary to not be able to be prepared,” Bradley added.
The idea, of course, is never to use the active shooter drill for real. Staff at the Thornton School District are given extra mental health training to help spot students in need.