Orangeville School District 203 administration and Stephenson County sheriff’s officials will address a controversial school safety drill at a school board meeting set for 7 p.m. tonight at the elementary school.
The drill occurred Friday at around 10 a.m. at Orangeville High School. The intent was to evaluate the effectiveness of the school’s emergency and crisis response plan and staff preparedness.
School administration came up with a mock scenario of an armed intruder entering the building, and contacted the Stephenson County Sheriff’s Office, which actively participated in the drill.
Several Stephenson County sheriff’s deputies helped with the drill, said Chief Deputy Todd Welch. This is the first time the sheriff’s department has assisted with a drill of this kind at a school. The mock scenario involved an “armed intruder,” played by a deputy, who entered the school, fired a cap gun, and asked for a specific student. Other officers arrived on the scene and “arrested” the intruder.
High school staff were notified of the security drill the day before and were instructed to follow the school’s response plan, said District 203 Superintendent Randy Otto. He said teachers were told to lock their classroom doors and remain inside with students, or to evacuate students.
“Most remained inside their classes. There were a few teachers that did escort their students out to a safe place, deemed prior to the drill, somewhere outside the school,” Otto said.
Parents were notified by phone via a school reach notification system between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. the day of the drill.
“I sent a message on our school reach system that the drill was going on, that it was just a drill, and not to do any communication (with students) via phone or text,” Otto said.
Students were not informed of the drill beforehand. Otto said staff were told not to notify students that it was a drill unless multiple students became seriously overwrought.
“We chose not to tell them because we wanted to see how the teachers could put them through the drill,” Otto said.
Otto did confirm that the student who the “intruder” was searching for, fled school grounds and had to be located and brought back to school.
“We found there are some areas to work on, some things were not done according to our plan,” Otto said. He added that this type of security drill will not be practiced in the near future. After the drill, classes resumed.
State law requires schools to conduct annual law enforcement drills pertaining to incidents of shootings, suspicious persons, bomb threats, or hazardous materials. On Monday afternoon, Orangeville teachers received an e-mail that students would convene for a debriefing assembly today about the drill.