By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor
Two days after the Ohio high school shooting that left three children dead, a colleague told me her seven-year-old daughter had come home from school and mentioned her class had had a drill; the children were told a fictitious story about a robbery in the neighborhood and that they needed to know how to respond in this kind of scenario. They were told to "stay in place, get low, turn off all the lights and lock the door."
Because we live in the Bay Area, my colleague was used to hearing about earthquake drills - but this was alarming. The school had never mentioned it and she didn’t know exactly what to tell her daughter. “The thought of all those children hunkering down in a dark classroom with a locked door brought me to tears,” she said. “My initial reaction was the drill was highly inappropriate.”
I was equally confounded. Teaching young elementary schoolers anti-terrorism techniques? What’s next – bomb dismantling? We all grew up ducking and covering under our particle board desks to protect us from nuclear annihilation. Was crisis-training the thing our children were learning to “protect” them?
I quickly learned how naïve I've been.
Lockdowns. Lockouts. Secure the perimeter. Regulations once meant for prison or a police state are now a familiar part of school in America. In our post-Columbine, 9/11 era, there's a very good chance that your child has been through this sort of training. The State of Illinois requires all schools to do a lockdown drill at least once a year. Seattle schools have what's called "Shelter in place" procedures, much like the drill my workmate's daughter went through.
The Department of Education recommends that every school holds drills that deal with "school shootings, suicides, and major accidents, as well as large-scale disasters, such as the events of September 11…."
As much as I don't want my children to have to deal with these kinds of disasters, there's no way around it, they have to deal with these kinds of disasters. It’s hard to remember that every alarmist safety procedure comes from a real event that, in retrospect, some people hope can be preventable next time.
There’s no better proof of this than I Love U Guys, a foundation created by the parents of Emily Keyes, a 16-year-old girl killed in 2006 at Platte Canyon High in Bailey, Colorado, not far from Columbine High. (The foundation’s name refers to the last text message Emily sent her parents before she died.) Among their accomplishments: promoting the Standard Response Protocol that is spreading nationally; it's showing success in helping school administrators, and students, to be ready should crisis strike.