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Suburban Chicago High School Conducts 'Code Red Drill' Using Starter Pistol

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 31, 2013 5:40PM

Cary-Grove High School
Cary-Grove High School conducted a training exercise Wednesday to prepare students in case of a mass shooting. Around 9 a.m., students were herded and locked in their classrooms as part of a 10-minute “code red drill” during which a dean fired a starter pistol on opposite ends of the hallway.

CBS2 reports school officials and police were pleased with the drill. Cary Police Chief Steve Casstevens said, “Reality is—as sad as it is—this is the society we live in. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend these type of things don’t happen.”

Parents and students were informed of the drill 48 hours in advance. The controversial drill, prompted by the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, raised eyebrows with students and parents, particularly over the use of a firearm. Officials said the use of a starter pistol, loaded with blanks, was to add an element of realism to the drill. Chief Casstevens told the Chicago Tribune “At the end of the day it is our responsibility and the school's responsibility … that every student goes home safely. So if that means we have to practice the drills in this manner, then I think we are doing the right thing.”

Some were not so sure the shots fired were the right thing. Callie Zasada, the mother of a senior at the school told the Tribune “they could do the code red without the actual gunfire. The gunfire could be a bit disturbing or traumatic to some of the kids, considering what happened at Sandy Hook.” Carol Gall, executive director of Mental Health America of Illinois agreed, saying “I am not sure this isn’t doing more to instill more fear and anxiety. Also, if every year we are doing drills like this, and there is a real fire or gunfire, are we desensitizing people to what happens if there is a real incident?” One parent told CBS2 “It’s up to the people in control at the school that need to know what that sounds like, not the children.”

According to the Daily Herald, Illinois schools are required to perform emergency drills with law enforcement once a year. Using gunfire in drills like these though, is about as common as pouring simulated smoke through the hallways during a fire drill. Other area schools say they have no plans to use gunfire in any kind of drills.