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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Madness


My pocket rang today, and when I pulled out the phone it was an emergency number I recognized from last year. 411-0000. Trouble. It was the high school calling to report they had just gone from lockdown to educational lockdown.  That meant the children were no longer hiding out of line of sight in the room, but continuing their class behind locked doors, while the police investigated a suspicious person report.

There was no notice of lockdown; why tell me it was lifted. Oh, I forgot all the busy thumbs notifying parents from behind overturned desks, they were in lockdown.

A year ago, the day before Christmas break, a man in a black trench coat, umbrella over his shoulder, prompted lockdown. Emily said that one seemed like a drill; they sat at their desks and waited for the all clear.

Since last year the school has a policy of all doors locked during school hours. Today’s lock down was for a man in a black trench coat and a ski mask, looking for a way in. Point of information: it probably was five degrees out when a student spotted the man outside, and notified the office.

Emily reported she was in Spanish class, in the wing where the person was seen outside. They piled desks against the door. The teacher wrapped a student’s belt around the door and held it in case the lock failed. The students armed themselves with books to throw and scissors, in case their defenses were breached.

The students were frightened. It was not like a drill. Emily was excused from her history test the next period, she was too distracted. She and another student stood down a blasé classroom contingent that wanted to leave before the all clear was given.

I’m not second guessing anyone; this probably is the Chicken Little world of the future. It was the video man, coming to set up a student project. Perhaps he wasn't told which door to use. Perhaps he was only walking to the correct door. Perhaps the office could have located him outside the building and asked his business before they pushed the panic button under the desk.

On the other hand, the school was reacting to every possible consequence, not the least of which was the drama being punched into cell phones by a thousand or two busy thumbs, notifying the world that, OMG, a man in a black trench coat and ski mask is walking around outside the building. So, kudos to the students, the teachers and the police who passed lockdown 101. I think the administration might augment their locked door policy with a common sense rider: Notify the office of all anticipated visitors.

It was much simpler when we knelt in the halls, protected our heads with our arms, and went home to report a bomb drill that day.


Not a black trenchcoat

30 comments:

  1. Seems like a bit of over-reaction... but then... isn't the old saying "better safe than sorry" right? Just too damned bad we've come to this.....

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  2. I suspect they will make gradual improvements to the system to elliminate these false drills. I immediatly thought of exactly what you refered to, bomb drills. We went under our desk and interlocked our fingers around our necks. I think they stopped drills when they figured out interlocked fingers and desks would not stop radiation. You would think the drills would scare the hell out of the kids, but as I recall we thought nothing of the bomb drills.

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  3. Every time there is a lockdown at my childrens' school I go into panic mode. It's the randomness and inability to protect them, I think, that's so terrifying. Also to know they're their, frightened without the person and/or people who are designated to keep them safe and bring them into adulthood.

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    1. This is small comfort, Johanna, but you made me think of a letter I opened when I was fire dept. clerk. A woman wrote to thank the paramedics for taking such good care of her daughter, injured on a school outing. "The nice lady said 'You'll be OK; I'm holding your hand and taking care of you.'" Her seven year old came out of the emergency room with smiles and stitches. We have to believe our children are in good hands when we put them in good hands.

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  4. Better not to take chances I guess...but really....couldn't the guy have called the school and told them he was coming and please meet him at the door?

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    1. Apparently the fellow had already signed in and was going out to bring in more equipment. Or, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

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  5. This seems unthinkable to me....that schools have to take these precautions. In my day all callers reported to the office - unmissable as just inside the only entrance to the drive leading to the road.

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  6. It all does seem a bit OTT.
    However , in the height of the IRA activity,I remember laying face down on the ground with the rest of the school whilst the police removed a bomb from under the gym floor...could have gone off as far as I was concerned, I hated gym.
    Jane x

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    1. I hated gym but didn't have a good reason like that.

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  7. How things have changed, I would often walk through my school as a short cut but now all schools have locked gates better to careful but it's sad the world has come to this.
    Merle...............

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  8. You must have been so frightened. Today kids and parents and grandparents have to worry about lock downs. I wish things were different.

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  9. With the way things are today and the way people can be, precautions like this are a necessity.

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  10. I think I prefer overreaction to too little. The Hurricane's prep school had security officers in SUVs who roamed the grounds. For the most part, they kept the students from engaging in reckless behavior. But when Morris Dees visited, security was on high alert because where Dees goes, threats follow. An officer looked me over and checked my bag before letting me in the auditorium. I think back to my high school days when anyone could and did walk in the school and attack a student and I shudder.

    Love,
    Janie

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  11. Whew -- we are living in an age of fear. It's a complex problem. We're damned if we don't and damned if we do. I'm sorry for the kids that have to know about such dangers today. -- barbara

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  12. I would find that terrifying. We never had problems in the Chicago area, but when we moved to a small town there were three bomb threats. A disgruntled student who was "slapped on the hand."

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  13. My heart clenches when I hear of events such as this. My cousin Phyllis was a nurse in the hospital that received the Columbine victims. She relives it daily.
    I admire the way Emily's class prepared for the possibilities. That teacher did very well.
    Atomic Bomb drills...remember them well.

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  14. I don't know which is worse, the panic of a perceived threat, or the Chicken Little attitude we have to live with because of the very few nut cases terrorizing our schools.

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  15. I attended one of the world's oldest schools, officially founded in 960 AD (but probably much older). As you can imagine, tourists from the world over came to look at our buildings, the cathedral, and even us!

    'Lockdown' would not only have been impossible, but ridiculed!

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  16. I can see why the students would be distracted after such an event; I think I would be too. It is good that the policies are in force and seem to work, it is sad that we live in a world where we have to have such policies to enforce.

    betty

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  17. It used to break my heart that we had to have drills at our school. I remember having to explain to my first graders what we had to do if there was stranger danger. It's better to be prepared. I remember the panic I felt when I heard there was a shooting at my son's high school and that someone had been accidentally shot in the back.

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  18. from my end of the story it seems a little over the top, but while it is happening, better safe than sorry is the way to go. What saddens me is this is the way things have to be now.

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  19. Better safe than sorry - but how terrifying for everyone concerned.

    In my school days the most terrifying prospect was the possibility of facing our crazy French, French teacher - he had a penchant for using the tawse whenever he was in a bad mood. I swear that the constant fear gave me grey hairs before I was sixteen.

    I must check with my daughter, a teacher, see what kind of drills they have in our schools these days.

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  20. It is sad that we live in such a dangerous world. I am glad it ended well with no one being shot or killed.

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  21. The price we have to pay for our Constitutional Rights is very high, indeed...

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  22. I read this last night and tried several times to comment but I am too angry at this gun and violence loving culture that has taken hold in this country, at the constant fear mongering by politicians that want to get elected that has driven this mindset.

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  23. Those cold war drills didn't seem very connected to our daily life. The news reports (too many happening) of real deaths are much scarier than those cold war bombs. The craziness needs to stop. I don't know any answers but common sense does help.

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  24. sorry for your stress and concern but proud of Emily and know that these kids live in TODAYS world..

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  25. What a story! I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would wander round school wearing a ski mask for heavens sake. I don't think British schools have these drills, but then thank goodness guns are very uncommon here. Not that we haven't had loonies shooting people nonetheless, but it is not something people are generally aware of. I am sorry that it was such a worrying time, and you must be proud of Emily.

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  26. Unfortunately this is the new reality ... better to be safe than sorry. But as you say, some new rules would help, too (all visitors to call before arrival).

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