NCHS teacher Derrick Schonauer and Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus addressed the media on Monday. (Photo by Eric Stock/WJBC)
By: Eric Stock
NORMAL – Derrick Schonauer said he had a relaxing weekend.
The first-year health and phys ed teacher at Normal Community High School had dinner with his parents on Friday and spend the weekend surrounded by family and friends – a sharp contrast the chaotic situation he found himself in on Friday morning.
Schonauer was the teacher who tackled a 14-year-old male student who had displayed a handgun, hatchet, kerosene and painkillers and held students in the hostage on Friday morning.
Schonauer didn’t go into detail about what happened, only to say it was “scary.” Based on the account of freshman Sean Kennedy who shared his story with WJBC, Schonauer took control of the gun when the boy had laid it down and tackled the boy after he tried to get the gun back.
No one was injured. Classes were cancelled for the day as students were sent to Eastview Christian Church before being dismissed early.
Schonauer said he was glad to get back to class on Monday morning to be with his students.
“We had one giant group hug and I told them I loved every single one of them. I was proud of the way they handled it, not just me,” Schonauer said.
Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus commended Schonauer’s actions.
“Instinctively, we all have a fight-or-flight inside of us and obviously he had the right instinct going at the right time,” Niehaus said.
Niehaus confirmed that Schonauer had a special relationship with the boy going back to his days as a student teacher at George Evans Jr. High, but he didn’t elaborate.
Niehaus added that several students in the class will also be recognized for their actions and how they handled the incident. He said the school will recognize them internally and could do a public ceremony later.
The teen who allegedly fired the gun is due in McLean County court on Monday afternoon, when it’s expected formal charged will be filed.
Niehaus said junior high counselors are on hand at NCHS on Monday to help any students needing help in coping with what happened. He said those counselors would know them best from their years in junior high.
Niehaus said students have shown compassion for the gunman.
“They are all praying for him and his recovery because I think they realize this was not something that’s normally in his M.O.,” Niehaus said.
Several hundred students, parents and others gathered at the school on Sunday afternoon for a prayer service.
Niehaus said the district will review its security procedures at each of its schools in light of the gun scare.
“When we put all our security systems in, what we were trying to do is to keep those from coming in, now that we know they can also come from within, now what do we do to beef up that security process?,” Niehaus said.
Niehaus said the district’s junior high schools don’t allow backpacks in classrooms, but they are allowed in the high school classrooms.
Niehaus said the district also needs to improve its internal communication systems, saying the radios they used didn’t cover the entire building. He also said the district would liked to have reunited students with their parents sooner, as some were left waiting at Eastview Christian Church.
Niehaus also commended the businesses who took it upon themselves to provide food for the students who were waiting at Eastview. He listed Avanti’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Buffalo Wild Wings, Schooners, Quizno’s, Sam’s Club, Starbucks, CJ’s Restaurant, LaGondola Spaghetti House, Monicals and Cafe 19 at Eastview Christian Church.
“When you look at the amount of food that was brought in and needed for kids to have something to eat, (it was) just a great, brilliant effort on everybody’s part,” Niehaus said.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.