Recently I attended a lockdown drill at an elementary school that houses kindergarten and first grade students. While the principal was explaining what a lockdown is to students and the significance of these types of drills, it struck me that our youngest students live in a world that is very different than it was even 10 years ago. When my two older children, who are now college age, were in elementary school, the terms “lockdown” or “lockout” were simply not part of their vocabulary. For today’s elementary students, these words are not only familiar, they incite action.
“Lockdown. Lock. Lights. Out of Sight.”
As the principal’s voice echoed through the cafeteria, the kindergarten and first graders made their way to designated spots in adjacent rooms. Instructions had been given and these students were on point. Within seconds, the room was clear and all was quiet.
I chatted with Monroe-Woodbury’s Director of Security and Safety Preparedness Frank Squillante to get his take on lockdown drills and how he thinks students and their parents are responding to such drills.
Q: Let’s start with the basics: What’s the purpose of a lockdown drill?
A: We want to prepare students and staff to react immediately while law enforcement is making their way to the scene. We want to eliminate any anxiety caused by uncertainty at all the age levels in our schools. We identify the safest locations in the buildings and help them practice going to a place where they will feel comfortable while law enforcement is coming.
Our hope is that by practicing these drills and identifying these areas in advance, we can alleviate stress for everyone involved. The true purpose of the drills is to have all parties – teachers, students, aides, food service workers, safety staff and more – working together to keep everyone safe in case of an emergency.
Q: Why do you actually have local law enforcement participate in the drill?
A: The goal is to familiarize our students and staff with law enforcement officers to allow them to get comfortable working together as a collaborative team. In a real emergency, that collaboration would be necessary. It has been proven that practicing these scenarios makes everyone that much more prepared if a real emergency ever happened.
Q: You conduct a variety of drills —lockdown, lockout, evacuation —in the schools. How do parents respond when they hear about the drills?
A: Parents are typically complimentary because I think they know we’re trying to help keep their children safe. The skills these students learn at this young age are skills they will use throughout the lives. When they’re in malls, movie theaters and other public places in today’s society, these drills will help prepare them for how to react if an actual emergency ever occurred.
The bottom line? Students must be prepared to handle themselves if an emergency takes place in their school. For some, practicing drills such as a lockdown will help them feel more confident and comfortable, but for others the process may be unsettling. Communication between students, parents, teachers and the district team about why we do these drills is an essential element in helping students understand their importance.
When the news gets scary All too frequently shared, this article, originally posted in 2011, offers helpful suggestions to parents for interpreting current events in an age-appropriate way for their children.
Carole Spendley is a public information specialist for Capital Region BOCES. With four children ranging in ages from 13-21, she is the first to say, “been there, done that!” and loves the opportunity to share her experiences with Parent Today readers.
Copyright ©2016 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission