Stadalsky: Minooka teachers get lesson in the unthinkable
By Kris Stadalsky email@example.com March 8, 2013 3:28PM
Minooka police officer Ken Briley speaks to Minooka Grade School educators about protecting against a shooter who breaches a school while officer James Sinovich demonstrates what teachers could expect to see. | Kris Stadalsky~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 12, 2013 6:04AM
For the first time, Minooka Grade School District teachers got in-service training from police officers and SWAT team members. That’s what they did during their most recent “day off” from the classroom.
Minooka police officer Ken Briley, who is a member of the Kendall County Special Response Team (SRT), which is like a SWAT team, organized the program to get teachers and school personnel thinking outside the box in the event they ever encounter a situation like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Briley spoke to teachers and other support staff about what to do in the event a shooter ever entered the school.
It’s not something teachers, or anyone, wants to think about or plan for, but that’s exactly what Briley wanted them to do. He didn’t provide them with answers, he asked each person to think about what their response would be if faced with a dangerous situation that threatened the lives of their students and themselves.
Schools have a crisis management plan that staff are supposed to follow — like securing their rooms or evacuating and calling 911, depending on the situation.
But what would they do if that plan wasn’t working, Briley asked them. What would be their Plan B?
They were shown a video re-enactment of the Columbine shooting, except no one but the presenters knew it wasn’t the real thing. The idea was to put them in the right mind-set, Briley said.
Later Briley had staff members close their eyes as he walked them through a scenario. Each person was to envision their own classroom or surroundings with a shooter at the door. Now he’s in the room and a gun barrel is against their head.
“I wanted them to put themselves in the same situation,” Briley said. “Think about it in a controlled environment so when or if it happens, it’s not the first time you thought of it or seen it.”
He talked about the profile of an active shooter, about things teachers should absolutely do when danger is present, what things to take notice of to tell emergency responders and how things would play out when police and SRT members arrived.
Officer James Sinovich, also a Kendall County SRT member, suited up in his riot gear. He came out from behind a closed door armed with a rifle and looking ominous. Like children who get to see a firefighter in full gear so they won’t be alarmed in an emergency, the teachers were experiencing the same thing.
Things have changed. People are beginning to fight back to give themselves and their charges a chance.
“I want you to prepare yourselves mentally so you can do it,” said Briley. “Take this personally, don’t be a victim. You have to decide what you are going to do, have that plan in your mind.”
Melinda DiLorenzo, a special education teacher, described her experience with the in-service as “very emotional, very powerful.”
One of the many things she learned, she said, is to be vigilant about her surroundings.
Talking with other teachers at her table, they feel like they are now in an entirely different mental state when it comes to their jobs.
“We don’t have the luxury of our jobs as just teaching anymore,” DiLorenzo said. “You shouldn’t be thinking about these things, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in.”
Reach Kris Stadalsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.