Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's annual State of the State address called for mandatory annual shooting drills in all state schools, says CBS Chicago. The idea came as part of a section that also proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Referring to the recent shooting at Newtown, CT, Quinn said that we must act:
"We cannot wait for another tragedy to happen before we take action," he said during his State of the State address in Springfield.
The Chicago public school system has already been taking steps to conduct drills, but so far these drills have mostly involved staff and security, not students. Quinn's proposal is specifically for students to be included. One Chicago area school already conducted a drill of the type that the governor is suggesting.
A little over a week ago, at Cary-Grove High School, students were locked in their classrooms as police performed a security drill, and two shots were fired in a hallway with starter pistols. Some parents said it was going to far to fire shots inside the school as part of the drill.
When Cary-Grove High announced that it planned to conduct a drill that would simulate gunfire, some parents were very concerned that they were taking realistic drills too far. The school planned to have teachers talk to students about the drill before it occurred, so that all students would be aware that gunshots were not real. In spite of parents' concerns, the school held the drill as planned. School officials said that it went well, and most students said that it had been okay. Students who were closer to the site of the blank firing found the gunshot noise much more shocking than those at a distance who could barely hear it. The drill lasted about ten minutes. Security staff felt that it had been a good exercise and that it exposed a few weaknesses in their security arrangements, which they could now work on changing.
Interviewed about the prospect of "code red" drills like this coming to their schools, some Chicago kids said that it was a good idea, given the reality that school shootings happen. One school has been in the news very recently for shooting violence outside the campus, though, and students at King College Prep High School said that being shot in school was not among their top concerns.
But some King students said they worry more about the dangers they face outside the building than inside.
"I don't feel safe around this neighborhood at all," said Cathy Taylor.
It was in a nearby park in the Kenwood neighborhood, after all, that King honor student Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed last week.
Hadiya Pendleton's death made national headlines as she had recently traveled with her school marching band to play at President Obama's second Inauguration. The First Lady has announced that she plans to come to Chicago for Pendleton's funeral. Although the 15 year old was shot in a park, not at school, her death has certainly called more attention to gun violence and its child victims.