Six years later: School safety efforts continue


Jessica Dougall

The 2018-2019 school year brought additional security measures to the NCHS campus. Security monitor Mr. Todd Kelly is one of two new staff members who works to ensure the building is secure throughout the school day.

An effort to increase school safety at Normal Community has been made in response to the shooting that occurred at the school six years ago and with the national increase of gun violence in general over the last few years.

NCHS is familiar with the issue of school safety, where attendees have been well aware of the dangers of gun violence before it became such a national concern. In September of 2012, a student fired a gun in a classroom at NCHS, something new principal, Dave Bollmann, and his colleagues had not entirely prepared for.

“We had never practiced a ‘Code Red’ before,” a freshman at the time of the incident, Katelin Dirr (class of 2016), said. “So when a teacher yelled ‘run’, we all scattered.”

As a result of the incident in 2012, students now practice the drill in full on the first day of school each year. This is a safety precaution Community takes much earlier than other schools in the district.

While some students were unaware of emergency procedures, prior years’ staff members were aware of the school’s response plan to protect the students.  Teachers Mr. Matt Schweinberg and Mr. Matt Chapman, present on the day of the shooting, immediately took action by directing their students to a safe corner of their shared classroom and barricading the classroom door.

“We have a plan for what we are supposed to do, so we got the kids all in the corner they were supposed to be in and tried to calmly talk through what was going to happen next,” Schweinberg said.

However, not all staff had been trained in the response protocol at the time of the event. A first-year English teacher at the time, Mrs. Kaitlyn Baez, evacuated her students through a window in her classroom during the event.

“A student ran into my room… and another teacher ran in,” Baez said, “I was thinking we have got to get out of here.” Because of the direction, students were running, Baez said that she “had it in my mind the danger was coming towards us.”

Following the incident came safety changes to the building, such as the creation of the greeter’s station to monitor who enters and exits the school throughout the day and an addition of security cameras throughout the building.

The Code Red Drill is now practiced on the first day of school so students and new staff alike can be familiarized with the emergency procedures.

Changes have not only been made physically throughout the building and in terms of emergency planning, but also exist in the mindset of the teachers.

“Our staff are some of the most vigilant in the district because many of them lived through that crisis,” Principal Trevor Chapman said. Chapman became principal after Bollmann’s retirement in 2017.

This is also true for students who were present on the day of the shooting, who have found the impact of the day following them throughout their education beyond NCHS.

In college, I have been much more affected by that day than I ever was in high school. I have experienced PTSD symptoms more vividly than ever before,” Dirr said. While performing in a musical which required over a dozen authentic looking stage guns and 100 gunshot sound effects, Dirr said she felt that “even fake weapons were completely debilitating. I sobbed the first time the guns were brought into rehearsal.”

It is not just the physical well-being of students that NCHS’s safety precautions have in consideration, but their mental well-being as well.

Despite this, some students like Isa Woodard (10) feel anxious during the code-red drills. “I feel like [school safety] should be talked about,” Woodard said, “like the history and why there are rules that we have in our school.” The Code Red Drill for some is an unpleasant way to enter the new school year or even their high school experience. But one the staff finds valuable. 

With the current issues in safety nationwide, NCHS has responded by hiring two safety monitors. The monitors check the hallways to ensure students aren’t in unauthorized areas, outside doors are properly shut, and that visitors are identified.

However, not everything can be planned for; one of the major threats to safety is the unknown.

Mr. Todd Kelly, a safety monitor at the school said: “It could be anything from an inside-the-walls type unsafe situation to something outside trying to come in.”

Associate Principal Mrs. Nikki Maurer and other school staff are focusing their efforts on creating positive connections with students; to make sure everybody has someone to lean on, whether it be a student or a staff member.

“The only way to actually prevent these incidents from happening is to make sure every student in our building has relationships with adults and other students.”