It was early fall of 2008 and my wife and I were in attendance for a kindergarten back-to-school night for one of our daughters. As a sitting school administrator, I was careful to wear my “parent” hat that evening, and I anxiously listened to the teacher discuss the newest trends in curriculum and other class initiatives with the packed room of parents from our quiet, suburban community.
Like other towns, our district was facing an enrollment versus classroom space crisis with plans to expand buildings in the not-too-distant future. As I peered around the room looking at parents who, most likely, I would know for the next 12 years, something struck me as odd. Where was the door? I hadn’t noticed it upon entering, but my daughter’s classroom was a shared space adjacent to the hallway and blocked by a partition half-wall.
“Parents, any questions?”
I had to ask.
“How do you do a lockdown in here?” The room fell silent; the teacher was stunned. My wife was mortified by such a non-classroom related topic. One father chuckled and said, “What’s a lockdown?”
“Well, we run across the hall and go to Mrs. Farley’s room,” explained the teacher. That answer seemed acceptable to the rest of the room, but not to me. Why wasn’t anyone else concerned? The answer was simple – bad things just don’t happen here in our school.
What we once learned from Columbine has now been surpassed by the latest school tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and we live once again in a time where innocence is easily shattered at the hands of some deranged individual. In the aftermath, school districts around the globe have examined their current security and are contemplating changes to district protocols, many of which include adding armed personnel or police officers in school buildings. Besides these new measures, districts are tightening their own internal security plans, ensuring that lockdown procedures are correct and active shooter drills are practiced on a regular basis and in the presence of local law enforcement officials.
Although most of these security measures contain confidential material that is not made public, it is important for parents to know exactly how their school plans to handle every possible emergency situation. Although this is not a common or comfortable topic for parents to discuss with their child’s principal or superintendent, there are two main reasons why the conversation should take place. First of all, don’t assume that everything is being done that can be done to protect your child. Secondly, you need to understand the procedures and protocols practiced in the school so you can reiterate to your child the importance of taking drills seriously and even practice or
discuss them at home.
In order to understand the safety measures at your school, consider these suggestions to engage in an appropriate conversation with an administrator:
Call your principal and ask for a 10 minute meeting to discuss the safety of your son/daughter inside the school. In the unlikely event that he or she will not meet with you, contact the superintendent of schools.