Democrats, Republicans, law enforcement and school officials seek to include critical response mapping to save lives
SPRINGFIELD – Working across the aisle and in tandem with police chiefs and education officials, members of the Illinois Senate outlined an initiative at a press conference Thursday to enhance crisis response plans in case of a school emergency.
“As a former special education teacher, I spent 15 years in the classroom. I also have three children of my own, one who is now a teacher,” said State Senator Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood). “Parents shouldn’t have immense fear that their kids are unsafe at school and teachers shouldn’t be put in a situation where they are on the front line. This is a commonsense approach to protect the people who educate our youth.”
The bipartisan proposal would allow public schools to obtain crisis response mapping data and provide copies to appropriate law enforcement and first responders to use in the event of an emergency.
“This is a bipartisan proposal that we can pass right now in an effort to save the lives of our state’s children,” said State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris). “This bill ensures that local law enforcement and first responders have access to accurate crisis response mapping data, so that in cases of an emergency within our schools, they have the necessary tools and information needed to effectively and quickly respond. The safety of our children is too important not to act on a proposal that has broad, bipartisan support.”
When first responders arrive to a school, it is likely they’ve never visited the location. Most schools’ blueprints on file are inaccurate, unlabeled and not compatible with the technical platforms used by law enforcement – which can cause major delays in responding to an emergency.
“When our office receives a call for an emergency at a school, we are generally met with many different agencies responding to the same call. When we don’t have an accurate map of the facility, we lose time and could potentially lose lives,” said Jack Campbell, Sangamon County Sheriff. “Giving schools access to accurate maps for their schools, would be a game-changer for public safety and could save lives.”
The plans comes after the May 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. A gunman fatally shot 19 children and two teachers, and wounded dozens of others. In the months since, the response at the Uvalde, Texas school has been under fire after reports from Texas’ safety chief that said police could have stopped the shooting within three minutes – rather than the hour and 14 minutes it took.
Emergency response mapping data is a technique used by the U.S. Military special operations units to navigate unfamiliar locations. Senators believe it is vital for first responder to have access to the same information and maps so they can respond as quick and safe as possible.
“As a former school board member, I’ve personally experienced the mass confusion when my daughter’s school went on lockdown after receiving a threat. The biggest challenge was that we could not find an accurate map onsite and responding agencies did not know where to go as quickly as we wanted them to,” said Barbara Hobrock, former member of a downstate Illinois school board. “After we experienced that incident, we knew that we needed an accurate, standardized map that was available at school and to responding agencies. I know this will be helpful to all schools across Illinois.”
Members of the Illinois Senate will work across the aisle to pass the proposal before adjournment.