Governor calls for more school security, districts fine-tune safety plans


Reporter - Kendall Downing
Web Editor - Mason Stevenson

MARION, Ill. - Illinois Governor Pat Quinn met with representatives from several fields, including education and public safety at a school security forum on Tuesday in Springfield.

The common goal is to develop the best ways to protect students around the state by improving safeguards in Illinois schools.

Currently each school is required to perform one emergency drill a year and have a crisis plan in place to review annually. But since the massacre at Sandy Hook, Governor Quinn said those measures are not enough and asks for even better protection.

The governor's call for an increased focus on school safety comes as local districts are fine-tuning their own security plans. One thing administrators and police will agree on - you've got to be prepared for the worst. And that's why the preparation involves an entire community.

With the youngest minds in their care, Marion Unit 2 Superintendent Dr. Keith Oates said safety inside school walls is a top priority.

"We want to be ready," he said.

That's why he talks often with the city's EMA director, Donna Stotlar.

"We're just helping them with the process of including the City of Marion Emergency Management and IEMA," said Stotlar.

The city added Stotlar's department one year ago. Since then, she's worked to coordinate communication between first responders and the district, making sure everyone's on the same page if a tragedy happens.

"Emergency management is planning. It's prevention. It's helping protect," she said.

Police Chief John Eibeck said response teams already train with teachers for active shooter situations.

"God forbid we should have something like this occur, we should be ready to go," said Eibeck.

Eibeck said security measures like locked doors on all buildings are now more important than ever. School resource officers are an option according to the chief, but that will all depend on finances.

For Dr. Oates, the working relationships are key in making sure there's no hesitation if a serious situation strikes close to home.

"Do a better job as a school district and a community," said Oates.

Another meeting of emergency officials and school staff is scheduled for next week.