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Classes resume at Cary-Grove after simulated school shooting exercise

A controversial drill has ended this morning at Cary-Grove High School in which blanks from two starter pistols were fired to simulate a school shooting.

Some parents complained that shooting off blanks so students became familiar with the sound of gunfire went too far. School District 155 spokesperson Jeff Puma said Wednesday that absences as a result of the drill were minimal.

Members of the media were not allowed inside the high school during the drill.

Shortly after 9 a.m. students were given the announcement that the school was in a “code red” lockdown drill. Faculty and Cary law enforcement checked the school to make sure doors were locked and the students where in their appropriate classrooms.

Then a second announcement was read, stating that the starter pistols would be fired. Two school deans, in two different wings of the school, each fired one blank around 9:10 a.m.

“It went in an incredibly orderly fashion,” said Cary Police Chief Steve Casstevens, “That's what we hope for. That's why we practice.”

Cary police were on hand to provide a supportive and observational role, Casstevens said. He added that the drill was important in preparing the students for an actual emergency.

“I suppose it's a sad commentary on society that we have to run drills like this,” Casstevens said. “But the reality is we have to run drills like this. This is the real world. We can't stick our head in the sand. We need to prepare for when real things happen.”

District 155 Superintendent Jonnie Thomas was also at Cary-Grove Wednesday to observe the drill.

“I think ultimately it's our responsibility to make sure that all of our students are safe and can respond under pressure,” Thomas said. “We need to make sure they have the ability to respond in an appropriate manner. I think this goes a long way in doing that.”

After the drill ended, teachers and students talked about the experience and discussed how students would react in different scenarios, like if they were in the hallway or the computer lab, District 155 Spokesman Jeff Puma said.

Puma added that the parent reaction to the drill was “mixed,” and the school received only a handful of complaints.

“There hasn't been a huge deluge of emails of phone calls,” Puma said. “A lot of the parents were supportive of the drill itself, some disagreed with the firing of the blanks. It's important to have [the sound of gunfire] in your knowledge bank in case you need to react in that situation.”

--Shaw Media reporter Chelsea McDougall contributed to this report

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