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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

After the Navy Yard Shooting: What to Know About Your School’s Lockdown Policies

I was skeptical of them at first. But the more I’ve researched, the more I believe in their importance.
Posted by Catherine Crawford , in the Narragansett Patch

Editor's note: as we are frequently reminded, we are surrounded by people with lots of firepower and not much sense, so this article is a timely warning.

As first responders rushed to Monday’s shooting in Washington, D.C., eight nearby schools were placed on lockdown.

That’s eight schools’ worth of parents watching and waiting. If you’re a parent, you don’t want to wait until a tragedy happens locally to know how your school responds.

Chances are your child is going to experience a lockdown or a lockdown drill. Lockdown drills aren’t new—Sandy Hook Elementary practiced them, and that might be one of the reasons the school’s staff performed so bravely.

I was skeptical of them at first, but I’ve come to see their necessity. Here are a few tips and questions to ask of your principal, of other parents, and of yourself:

DON’T ask about bullet-proof white boards or other tactical defenses. Ken Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services in Cleveland, Ohio fears that "people’s emotions are raw from the Sandy Hook shooting, from Decatur, the Colorado movie theater and now from the navy yard in D.C." 

"Things like bullet-proof backpacks and white boards provide an emotional blanket, but they are not proven affective. They might, in fact, make a situation more dangerous,” Trump says. 

DO ask about drills, doors, and demanding parents. Michael Dorn, another school safety expert and Executive Director of Safe Havens International, doesn’t mince words: "We could cut the death rate in half in our schools with things like good student supervision and better drill processes.” 

Parents need to respect the rules put in place, Trump says. "Sometimes, the parent that demands advanced security measures is the same one that wants to slip in the cafeteria’s side door and hand their child his lunch.” 

DO ask about staff training. Look at the the role of Antoinette Tuff, a Georgia school bookkeeper who talked a student out of a massacre in August. Tuff and two other staff members were specifically trained to deal with hostile situations.

DON’T assume your kids have thought about this. It’s natural, and smart, to try to protect kids from of these distressingly frequent images. But that shouldn’t preclude you from having a conversation with your kids about what they’d do in an emergency.

Click here for a more specific list of questions a parent can consider when accessing a school’s safety.