Saturday, October 17, 2015

School Lockdown Drills Are This Generation's "Duck And Cover"

Yesterday my 10 year old daughter had another Lockdown Drill at her school.

An email announcement went out to us parents from the Principal, a few days before.  From the email:
During our drill on Friday, an intercom announcement will inform staff and students that the drill will begin. Staff will then be asked to secure their classrooms. Teachers will lock classroom doors, close the blinds, move students away from the windows, turn out the lights, and ask students to remain quiet. The drill will last about three minutes, at which point another announcement will be made that the drill is over.

And when the time came during class, the teacher locked the door and turned off the lights, and the kids had to huddle in the corner, absolutely quiet and still while they imagined an armed madman walking the halls of their school.  The teacher explained to them that, if the windows above them were shot out, it would be a harmless shower of safety glass cubes that could not cut them.  Then, he practiced walking quickly and orderly out the back door of the classroom, across the school grounds, and to a staging area in the neighborhood across the street.

The last time my daughter's school had a lockdown drill, she was in an after-school activity with a mixed-age class of kids, mostly younger than her.  Many of them were confused and started to cry, traumatized by the image in their mind of an armed lunatic coming toward their room.

This is the new normal in America.  It is practiced in my daughter's school at least as many times a year as fire drills, and more even than earthquake drills.  My 11 year old son had a drill in his school the week before.

But as traumatizing as this is, it is an increasingly-necessary precaution taken by schools.  Since our federal politicians continue to do nothing at all to keep guns out of the hands of murderous madmen, schools are left to pick up the difference, preparing their staff and students to fight for their lives or hide in darkened corners, or to follow the NRA's suggestion, highly-opposed, to make an armed camp out of our children's learning environment (which hasn't turned out so well for some schools).

Just this last week in the town of Springfield, Oregon, not far from where I live, Riverbend Elementary had to go into lockdown.  Police had gotten a tip that a convicted felon, high on meth and suicidal, was armed with a gun and headed to his child's school.  The school responded with the lockdown.  Luckily, police intercepted the man.  He was armed with three firearms in his car.

Two days later, in Salem, Oregon, three schools went into lockdown for 45 minutes, including South Salem High, Howard Street Charter Middle School, and Bush Elementary schools, when there was a shooting in the streets nearby.  One man was injured in the shooting.

A few days before that, two schools in Portland, Grant High School and nearby Beverly Cleary School, went on lockdown when two men were openly carrying semi-automatic assault rifles next to the schools.  

And, of course, we can't forget the Umpqua Community College shooting a couple weeks ago.

From Everytown's interactive map of school shootings
since 2013 (HERE).
Remember the "Duck and Cover" movement of the 1950's and '60's?  A whole generation of school children were asked to imagine a nuclear bomb hitting their little American towns and cities.  They were told that, if there was a big flash or a little warning, they were to immediately take cover under their desks and wait for an all-clear signal.  In their minds, they could imagine a nuclear bomb exploding and a massive fireball washing over their schools, burning them alive.  Nowadays, it's not a specter of a giant bomb killing them, but a more personal, and realistic killer walking their halls.  It's happened 150 times since 2013!  See an interactive map of them here.  And school shootings are increasing.

The Trace did a study of lockdowns and found an astonishing 100 school lockdowns (not drills!) in just a two-week period.  From the article:

[A]t least 100 lockdowns made the news during those two weeks. That’s an average of about 10 lockdowns due to a potential threat per school day. Of the 10 school days tracked, only one was incident-free."

And that's just the ones reported by media, that they could find with their searches.
Video capture from the ALICE training video shown to students.

School systems are now making videos and programs to teach students and faculty how to respond in the event of an active shooter incident.  One video, from an Ohio school system, even suggests that the students attack the shooter if they come in the room.  See it HERE.  It teaches the ALICE program (which stands for "Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate"), which is being taught in a number of schools and colleges around the nation.  The video, which is shown to students, shows a man with a handgun enter a classroom and the teen students attacking and swarming over the man, holding him down, all the while stating, "If it is necessary to counter the aggressor's attack, you may be able to distract and disrupt the aggressor's plan by putting him on the defensive and possibly even disarming him by swarming him into submission until police arrive." One student gets shot and goes down before the other students dogpile the shooter.

That's right, they are recommending that child students attack the shooter if cornered.

It's not enough now that school kids have to worry about grades, homework, tests, relationships, sports, and all the usual things that kids have to think about.  Now we are asking them to think about cold-blooded killers stalking their halls, and potentially having to fight them to the death!

This has to end.  The answer isn't to arm every teacher, faculty, or even students, as the gun lobby has suggested, or to turn our schools into fortresses.  The answer is to keep from arming the lunatics in the first place.  And the only way to do that is to pass sensible gun laws, such as universal background checks (like the one enacted this year in Oregon), better mental health reporting to the background check system, child access prevention (CAP) laws to keep guns out of the hands of school kids, and a renewed ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammo magazines.

Perhaps, if we pass such laws, lockdown drills at our schools will become a nightmare of the past, like "Duck and Cover" became, and we will find a new trajectory for our schools and communities away from gun violence.

ADDENDUM (10/21/15):  One pre-K school teacher from Virginia describes what it is like during a lockdown drill with her small students, trying to convey urgency without inciting fear or alarm, and the mental considerations that she has to endure as part of the process.  From the article "Rehearsing for death: A pre-K teacher on the trouble with lockdown drills":
Instead of controlling guns and inconveniencing those who would use them, we are rounding up and silencing a generation of schoolchildren, and terrifying those who care for them. We are giving away precious time to teach and learn while we cower in fear.