I am a classroom teacher in the era of Code Red Lockdowns. I am angry, frustrated, distressed, and overwhelmed. Every moment of every working day, when I walk into my school, I have to think about my escape routes, my barricades, my students’ safety, and my own mortality. I have to plan and be ready. But most importantly, I have to be prepared to decide life or death fates. Can I ever be trained enough for this insanity? How does your school district train for lockdowns?
Across the nation our schools practice for intruders with drills, which go by many names and philosophical responses including Code Red Lockdown and A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate). In the last few years, my district has gone from a “lock your doors and cower” response to the proactive program of A.L.I.C.E.. This new training attempts to empower potential victims to interrupt a shooter’s ability by distraction and active defense. We are told to run from the building if at all possible; lock our doors; pile furniture up to make entry difficult; and, in the worst-case scenario, throw objects at the shooter to distract them while others make their escape.
Questions To Ask Yourself
With each drill, schools often leave out some very basic systems of protection and unanswered questions.
How many of your schools have doors that lock from the inside? I can lock my door from the inside, but I can’t tell if the door is locked without going out in the hallway to check. Please tell me how that is going to keep anyone safe!
Are your classrooms supplied with mechanisms on door hinges to keep them from opening?
Do you have ladders to get out of multistory buildings?
Can you hear the loud speakers call out a lockdown regardless of where you are in the building? Or do you have spaces in your buildings where you cannot hear alarms or speakers?
Is there a system to acknowledge students’ whereabouts in a serious situation?
Are there safe community places to evacuate nearby? Do your parents and students know where these safe places are?
How do you communicate lockdowns with parents and families?
How often do you train your staff?
Does your school have the latest up-to-date security and surveillance infrastructure?
If you’re like me, you probably answered less than positively to many of these questions and can share even more security issues not well addressed or missing from your school.
The Disconnect Between Community Views and School Reality
There is also a growing disconnect between community views of what occurs in schools and the actual experiences of teachers and administrators. How do we best address this and help remedy the vast complexities of school shootings? For instance, there are plenty of memes circulating social media that state schools won’t buy curriculum, pencil sharpeners, or other classroom supplies, let alone create rigorous school safety plans.
But we must continue to speak up and be part of the solution by asserting that we want safe and supportive schools. By joining and connecting with professional organizations (ASCD, ISTE, content or specialty groups) we can make our voices heard. We need to exercise our rights in the voting booth and can no longer be silent and sit on the sidelines. It is vital that we work together to solve the horrific school phenomena of mass shootings.
Distinguish Between Fact and Fiction
Social media is not always the best way to declare school safety needs. False statements abound accusing and blaming others resulting in people across the country becoming more deeply divided about any potential solutions.
How can we sort fact from fiction in this emotionally frenzied environment? I resort to proven resources such as Snopes.com and established multiple media news outlets that do not sensationalize or offer opinions. I seek facts. I look at web addresses; I investigate and follow the trail. It is not always easy, but it is too simple for people to create false information on social media sites. More importantly, I also work to teach my students and their families to critically analyze information by finding multiple sources to prove the veracity of any claims.
Arguments are presented in social media about gun rights, school security, family responsibilities, cultural changes, and mental health services. Right wing, left wing, and conspiratorial media trolls expound upon what they think are the best solutions. Not so surprisingly, classroom teachers are never a formal and integral part of any debate. Persons who have not stepped in a classroom for more than 10 minutes in the last 30 years are often telling schools what they should or should not do to curb school violence.
We must tell our legislators what needs to be done, what schools are like, and what few options we have available to us with current funding and policies. Technology-minded teachers can use apps like Countable, Voter, We the People, 5Calls, Votespotter, and Congress to make their voices heard. There are numerous websites that help connect with state legislators and school districts all publish the names of school board members; invite them to visit your classroom to spend real time in a school.
Teachers serve as parents, nurses, counselors, social workers, nurturers, and disciplinarians. Somewhere between those roles, and amid rampant testing, we find time to educate. We buy instructional materials for the classroom, along with individual school supplies for students. We feed our students breakfast and provide them with rewards and incentives. We have hundreds of hours of mandated professional development trainings. But now teachers have the profound responsibility of life and death decision-making when it is assumed by parents in our communities that the classroom teacher would sacrifice their own life for someone’s son or daughter. We have sons and daughters too that deserve to have their parents come home. There is nothing right about this situation—it is complex and there are no simple answers. However, we must unite to find the solutions to school violence and eliminate lockdowns.
Ginger Long has been a special education teacher and junior special education case manager for 40 years and has has taught English Language Arts for 12 years. Currently, she serves as the Pupil Personnel Services Secondary Liaison at Rock Island High School in Rock Island, Illinois. She is also part of the GetEdFunding.com team and contributes to the Big Deal Media K-12 Technology and Everyone Can newsletters.