Cary-Grove High School Principal Jay Sargeant thinks that students should know what gunfire in the hallways sounds like. So today he and other administrators conducted a “code red” emergency drill that included administrators firing blanks inside the school to precipitate lockdown mode. The suburban district is outside Chicago.
Just in case some of the students were freaked out, the principal reassured parents that “trained social workers” would be available to speak to students afterwards. While Sargeant believes that drills like this “help our students and staff to be prepared should a crisis occur,” he admitted that “it may cause some students to have an emotional reaction.”
No word yet on whether social workers were needed, but parent Sharon Miller thought the idea was ridiculous. “Drills are important, absolutely,” she said. “The issue I’ve got is running up and down the hallways with a gun. I think that’s wrong. During fire drills they’re not running up and down the hallways with flame throwers, are they?”
The plan to acquaint kids with the sound of gunfire in their school was concocted by the school resource officer along with the administration. I guess when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but I genuinely cannot understand how recognizing the sound of gunfire is a big help to kids if a shooter appears in the halls. It’s hard not to pass off this whole idea as an example of gonzo administration.
But it’s easy to get sucked into highly emotional territory when you’re trying to protect kids. A few years ago it was popular to stage a fake car accident on school grounds right before prom night to vividly demonstrate to kids the dangers of drinking and driving. I was persuaded by the PTA and the senior class to try the idea at our school. With the help of the local fire department/rescue squad, a couple of wrecked cars were towed onto the school grounds and set up to look as if they had collided. Students volunteered to act as if they were seriously injured or even dying. It was all improvised, and students applied lots of make-up to simulate gashes and blood. There was a great deal of crying and screaming among the students actors, and even a little among the student observers. Local police and rescue squads performed their roles as well. Afterwards everyone went inside to talk about what he or she had seen and what it all meant.
It was ghoulish, but some kids were much more taken with the theatricality of the event and the outlandish acting of their friends than they were with the message. The PTO and the fire department felt good about doing something spectacular to make kids think about drinking and driving. I felt I had been part of a weird and creepy charade that not only wasn’t helpful, but also may have unnecessarily disturbed some kids.
So I understand how administrators can get sucked into thinking that kids will greatly benefit from firing starter guns in school. But seriously? I would have kept my kid at home today.