“Teachers, We Are In A LOCKDOWN…”

That is what I am required to say over the school intercom when we hold a lockdown drill or if we need to lock down the school for safety reasons.  Boy, I hope and pray that I never need to hold a real lockdown,  but the chances are good that I will one day.

The world is a pretty messed up place if we have to practice locking classroom doors, lowering blinds, turning off the light, and hiding with a group of children in the corner of a classroom.  What a shame.  Sure, I understand the need, I just don’t like it.

Today, we held an unannounced lockdown drill.  The teachers knew that it would be this week, but the date and time was a surprise even to me.  The police and the folks from the district office came in and announced that I needed to lock the school down.   Then we walked the halls checking on all of the classrooms.  What a strange experience.  The school seemed completely deserted, and never quieter during a school day.   It was eerie.

These drills bring out the most difficult “what if…” questions.  What if a child is in the bathroom?  What if a child is in the hall by himself?  What  if it happens during an assembly, or even worse, during lunch time?  What if my entire class is in the hallway?  These are very hard questions, and there are no perfect answers.  We school principals do not like being unable to answer questions related to student and staff safety.

Ask me anything about a fire drill or a tornado drill, and I can tell you the procedures from memory.  But a lockdown?  There are so many variables that we can’t control and I can’t answer.  It scares the hell out of me, and it should.


6 thoughts on ““Teachers, We Are In A LOCKDOWN…”

  1. Wow! I suppose with historical events in US schools this is as necessary as Fire Drills etc., but from a UK perspective it’s pretty shocking and a sad reflection of society.

    How people defend the right to bear arms I have no idea, the differences in gun crime speak for themselves.

    I hope you never have need for this.


  2. Dan,
    I could not agree more. I think the hardest part is trying to explain to 7 year olds why we need to hold these drills. We do not want to raise their anxiety levels about a situation that most likely will not happen, yet we feel the need to be prepared for the worst case scenario. How many times can you tell a child that we are locking down the school just in case an animal gets into the building? I actually had a squirrel get into the school one time, but the danger was pretty low level. Sure, it could happen, but how long will the students believe that story?

    With the amount of violence in the media, both fictional and real, how can we protect children from the fear that they are not safe in school? How many different ways can we secure the school?

  3. Dave,

    Ultimately, we cannot guarantee violence will never happen in our schools unless we run our schools like prisons, and even then it’s not a sure thing. We put in place procedures that will increase safety without negatively impacting learning. We use our best judgment. And, just as you are doing here, we continue to turn these things over in our heads to check and double-check our decisions.

    You are buying piece of mind for your teachers, parents, and students. Just like the fire insurance for which I pay yet hope I will never use, having good procedures in place lets us all sleep better at night.

    During my second year as principal, our major PTO initiative for the year revolved around school safety. Buying walking talkies, installing call buttons in classrooms, and upgrading the locks on our classroom doors was money was spent. On the night of last PTO meeting, we reviewed our efforts for the year. It had been a busy day, and I had not been near a radio or TV. It was not until that night when I got home that my wife told me about what had happened that very day, that day in a place called Columbine.

    I recall all too well being in the library and watching on live TV as the second plane struck the World Trade Center and trying to figure out how I was going to explain this catastrophe in terms that small children could understand and assure them that they were still same.

    School safety is a complex problem, and complex problems rarely have simple answers. That’s why we need the very best people we can find leading our schools. Thanks for the post. It’s a good one.

  4. As a teacher, I’d love for my district to have unannounced drills, but so far, this idea has been downplayed. Kudos to you for taking on an unannounced lockdown.

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