Governor Quinn Directs State Agencies to Further Strengthen School Emergency Response and Prevention

Coordinated Effort Will Review and Recommend Improvements to Existing Programs and Policies; New School Safety Video to Be Released in Early January

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–December 18, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and other state agencies will review existing programs for student protection and determine whether improvements can be made. Following the recent horrific massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, state agencies in Illinois will work together to assist local school districts and local law enforcement in the review to aid in emergency response planning and ensure they can provide support to local jurisdictions in a timely and efficient manner.

Today’s directive is part of the governor’s ongoing commitment to ensuring safe schools in Illinois.

“We want the parents of Illinois to know their children are as safe as possible when they are at school,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois has increased emergency preparedness and collaboration between local police and schools in recent years, but we must continue to take every step possible to make our schools even safer. This coordinated effort will assist local police and school officials to make sure our students are protected.”

In the coming weeks, Governor Quinn will convene experts from the state and local public safety, education, public health and mental health agencies to discuss violence prevention and response strategies.

In addition, the School and Campus Security Training Program, a cooperative effort of the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Terrorism Task Force and the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, will soon roll out a School Safety Drill Video and Computer-Based Training tutorial, which reflect best practices based on lessons learned from real life emergency events. The videos will be free and available for distribution for public and private schools by early January 2013. The videos detail specific actions for administrators, teachers and support staff for each drill, based on post-incident reports and de-briefings from real school events.

Since 2009, schools in Illinois have been required to perform an emergency drill at least once per year. In addition, schools must have emergency and crisis plans in place and review them annually.

Since 2005, the School and Campus Security Training Program provided more than 250 K-12 school safety planning courses attended by more than 8,600 participants representing 817 public school districts and 545 non-public schools. In 2012 the program delivered 55 preparedness training courses for both K-12 and higher education institutions, which were attended by 1,486 participants, to update emergency operations plans and increase their capacity to respond to and recover from all hazards, including active shooters. Currently, there are 11 courses scheduled from January through March of 2013.

“School-based emergency management teams, with plenty of back-up members, have become a standard part of education,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “Efforts to keep our students safe require districts to build and maintain close relationships with their community responders as they run the law enforcement drills required under the School Safety Drill Act.”

While significant focus is on planning and preparation to respond to emergency situations, state laws and services also address threats to our students’ social and emotional health with requirements to address bullying. ISBE works with partners to provide statewide workshops on school safety and administers federal funds aimed at keeping students safe.

In 2004, Illinois became the first state in the nation to require all school districts to teach social and emotional skills as part of their curriculum and daily school life, from lunch room interactions to after school activities. As part of these classes, students are required to meet certain benchmarks – such as recognizing and managing feelings, building empathy and making responsible decisions.

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