It's Time To Get Rid Of "Lockdown"

Hide In The Corner And Wait To Be Killed

When I was in school in the 70s and 80s, there was no such thing as a lockdown.  I really don't know when the lockdown came to widespread use in schools, but I imagine it was after Columbine.  The general idea is that if there is a threat inside the school, then someone gets on the PA and announces a lockdown (I really hope no schools are still using "Code Purple" or "Mr. Hoover Please Report to Room 911" or any other codes).  Teachers lock their doors, cover the windows and gather the students in the corner out of the line of sight of the door. 

This is easy to drill and practice, and makes people think they are doing something, but in reality, it simply provides a large mass of easy targets for a killer.

I have some suggestions that we, as a society, need to move toward as a response to school mass killings.

1.  All teachers and staff must be empowered to secure their rooms, call 911, and sound the alarm to the rest of the school.  There is a school safety training video called "The First Twenty Minutes" that for ten years has been considered the way to handle a school killer.  I don't use it anymore and think that it needs to go away.  In it, a teacher looks out her window and sees a boy with a rifle walking across the parking lot toward the school.  If I remember the details right, she draws the blinds, locks her door, then calls the office.  The person in the office hears what she has to say, then gives the phone to the principal.  After listening to the teacher, he tells one secretary to get the SRO, then he calls 911, tells them what is going on, then hands the phone to the SRO BEFORE putting the school on lockdown.  During that time, the killer gets in the school and starts shooting.  Had the teacher done an all call from the getgo, he may have been locked out.

Unfortunately, that is still the way in many schools.  When I spoke at the Self Reliance Expo in NC a few months back, I met a teacher from down there.  She said that teachers in her school would be fired if they called 911 - that was for the principal.  She was also told that she would be fired if she said anything to her elementary students about fleeing out of a side door during a lockdown.  Which gets to...

2.  The standard must be that staff are trusted to use good judgment and trained that breaking a window and sending children out or running out of a nearby door are acceptable and demanded if there is a threat of death by staying in the building.  Yes, it is harder to drill and practice, but it can certainly be talked through with students.  In the video, students and a teacher huddle in fear on the classroom floor as they hear gunshots in the hall and the killer jiggles the door handle.  I want to yell at the screen, "Get out of the window!"

3.  Don't make the school a fortress, but make the classrooms securable.  People who don't know any better want metal detectors and cameras everywhere.  While they can have a role in school safety, they are worthless in defense against a determined killer.  Make classroom doors of heavy, solid wood construction.  Make the window small, at eye level, bulletproof, and on the edge of the door away from the door knob.  Use locks that stay locked... you can use a key to open the door, but not to keep it unlocked.  Don't have windows in the interior walls.  Teachers should have their big, heavy desks at the door end of the room.  In an intruder situation, flip it on its end and push it against the door.  Pile student desks against and in the way of the door. If the intruder breaches the door, he'll at least get caught up in the mess of desks and slowed.  Rooms on the ground floor should have at least one "emergency escape" window that can be unlatched and used for egress... like on a bus or an airplane.  Second story or higher classrooms should be even more secure.  Spectra or Kevlar linings for the door and hallway walls... high security deadbolts... things that will deny entry to the killer and stop bullets.

These are all doable, and the first two won't cost anything.  But there will be resistance.  School staff don't like to think about these things, and lockdown is what they are used to.


  1. I like your thoughts. And even better coming from somebody who knows the business of school safety. As much as we like to believe this can be prevented, it just can't be. Sure, there are plenty of options that can slow down or dissuade such acts, we just need more people like you educating parents who demand such action from their schools. Thank you.

  2. I think this is worthy of some sincere discussion.

  3. I am a school board member. I asked for a meeting to be held regarding changes to the lock down rules and other safety related issues. Every school in our district is susceptible to the kind of attack that happened in Newtown.
    The other members on the board were in no rush to evaluate the situation and get moving on a resolution. I was appalled and disgusted.
    You need to go to your next school board meeting and ask, who, what, where, when and how. What are you going to do? What is the timeline to get it done? Who is looking at the situation?

    Ask questions and demand answers.
    If that doesn't work, run for the board.

  4. I am a school bus driver for a rural area school. Many times I have asked my supervisor what I should do if I find myself with a bus full of students in the middle of a threatening situation. Never have I received an answer other than "use your best judgment". Our district has a problem with communication between departments and the mentality of nothing will happen here. Do you have any suggestions of what to do in a threatening situation?

    1. Sorry for the delay on this, I went on hiatus about the time you posted this... Anyway, "best judgement" is often the best thing to say. We can't plan for every possible scenario. That being said, you need to pre-plan in your head. Bounce ideas off your fellow drivers for different "what would you do if... scenarios." The main thing is to do "something." Get off the X. A bus full of elementary kids is going to react differently than a bus full of high schoolers. The response to two kids fighting when one pulls a knife is going to be different than if an armed adult gets on the bus to take hostages. We recently had a situation where a bus pulled up at a morning middle school stop in an apartment complex. A "drug deal gone bad" happened two hundred yards from the stop and a guy fleeing the gun fight collapsed right in front of the bus. Protocol was for the driver to slam it in to reverse and get out of Dodge, but a panicked adult woman climbed on before he could get the doors closed and started screaming for the kids to get off. Plans tend to come apart when the other parties don't know the plan. Being flexible and thinking on your feet while maintaining situational awareness are key.


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