Lock-Down / Lock-In at the School

I guess I’m glad we had a practice “real” lock-down, because drills just don’t bring out the issues like a real situation does. If armed gunmen really do threaten my kids’ school, I’d like to think we are better prepared after a lock-down yesterday.

The school had a lock-down drill planned for later in the day, but when neighbors noticed two young men with what appeared to be semi-automatic weapons slung across their chests, the drill became reality.

Eric was out at recess, and he and the other 2nd graders were called in to the school building. Anna was at lunch in the cafeteria, and just kept reading her book. She didn’t seem to even care that the 2nd graders crowded in the room, the doors were locked, and the blinds drawn – she just kept reading her book.

I learned of the situation when I started getting text messages. There were reports from parents and neighbors that police were swarming the area, and that the schools were on lock-down.

My first instinct, of course, was to rush to the school to get my kids. Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to actually get to them if they were on lock-down, I just wanted to be there. Even after learning that everything was all-clear, I still wanted to be there.

Brian felt the same – he said, I’m going to the school. If nothing else, I’ll just be there when they get out at the end of the day.

We all agreed – through frantic text messages – to not freak out and therefore freak out the kids. I got there right as the kids were let out for the day, and everyone seemed normal.

As the day went on, we learned more details from the kids. I let the stories come out in their own time. They knew that the police thought there was someone unsafe in the neighborhood, but they didn’t know what we knew. That there were reports of two young men walking near the school with semi-automatic rifles slung across their chests.

I HATE that my kids have to practice what to do if a gunman is really threatening their school. I hate that some asshats walk around with guns to prove they can, and it means my babies have to contemplate that evil people may try to hurt them.

Anna was in first grade when all those first-graders at Sandy Hook were mowed down by a sick man with unnecessary weaponry. I cried and cried for those kids. It hit close to home because of my own first grader. The shooting at Umpqua Community College last week, though physically much closer to home, barely struck a nerve with me. It was just one more mass shooting in a long string of them.

I just don’t know how we’ve arrived at this time where it’s commonplace for schoolchildren to have to practice hiding from an active shooter. Why is this acceptable?

I find myself near tears every time I’m reminded about the my kids hiding in the school with the blinds drawn. We got an email from the district, and just opening the email made me want to cry.

“Police received a report of  first one and then two men in Grant Park with what appeared to be rifles slung across their chests at 12:40 pm. Grant, then Fernwood and then Hollyrood went into lockdown as a precaution. A large number of police officers responded immediately and fanned out in the park and surrounding neighborhood.”

But it was also reassuring in a weird way. I can only hope that this is as close as we every come to an actual active shooter situation. But if that day ever comes, I think the school is better prepared for having gone through this “real” drill. I’ve been through countless safety drills at the zoo, and as much as you try your best to treat it as a truly threatening situation, there is nothing like a real threat to heighten your senses and make you realize the flaws in your plans.

We’ve learned from talking to the teachers and administrators that they identified flaws in their plans, like the fact that the gathering place for the kids has windows that face the outside. If the grown-ups in the room hadn’t been worried about actual men outside with guns, would they have noticed that the windows were a liability, even with the shades drawn? They also identified that the communications with parents could be improved. We received an email after the all-clear was sounded, but that was after we were already freaked out. A text message upon the all-clear would have been faster and more effective for immediate communications.

Like I said, I hope this is as close as we ever come to an active shooter situation. But for better or worse, I think we are more prepared if it does happen.

I just want to know why anyone thinks it is acceptable that school children have to prepare for this kind of thing at all? Is this the best we can do for our kids?


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