JHS refreshing emergency response training in wake of Mattoon High School shooting

By Blake Schnitker on September 22 at 6:14am

Wednesday’s shooting at Mattoon High School has prompted many schools throughout central Illinois, including Jacksonville High School, to take a refreshment course in emergency training.

Mattoon High School isn’t the only victim of campus lockdowns this year. Southeast High School in Springfield was forced to go on lockdown Tuesday due to reports of a gun on campus, which was later discovered in a trash can by administrators. Back on September 1st, Waverly High School was placed on hard lockdown after reports of a suspicious person in the area near the school.

In the rare case that such an event were to happen at Jacksonville High School, Principal Mike McGiles says both his staff as well as the students receive training on properly handling certain situations.

“It can happen anywhere. Last year the district re-did all of our emergency directives and procedures for all of our buildings, so we spent a lot of time and effort on re-doing those and educating our staff and students on them. We practice what we call ‘active intruder or active shooter’ drills. We’ve done a lot of that with staff, and we are now just starting next week to start educating our students on those procedures. We’ve practiced those with students in the past, but we’re going to get a little more in depth with our students this year on practicing those procedures,” says McGiles.

McGiles explains that having school resource officer Craig Wright on hand is a major advantage.

“(Officer Wright) is kind of our eyes in the sky so to speak, keeping an eye out for anything and everything that’s going on. And he’s part of the training process too, in fact he’s the one who trains our staff on what we are going to do in those situations and how we’re going to react. The more prepared you are for it, the better off you are to handle it when it happens. Again, you hope it never happens and you never know how you’re going to react when it does, but if you’re prepared and at least have some semblance of an idea of what you’re supposed to do, you’ve got a much better chance than you do if you (aren’t prepared),” McGiles explains.

While bomb threats and school shootings are relatively rare in the full scale of things, McGiles recognizes these sorts of incidents could happen anywhere. He says JHS has been fairly lucky when it comes to such incidents.

“We’ve been relatively fortunate. We’ve had a few situations, none of which turned out to be anything major, so we have had a few of those situations, but we’ve been pretty fortunate to have dodged that over the course of time. But with the way things are happening in the world today, you just never know,” McGiles says.

In terms of school lockdowns, there are two different types. The first is referred to as a soft lockdown, where the campus is secured, however students continue to attend class like normal. In the case of a hard lockdown, all campus activities are stopped and all lights are shut off.