Lockdown

Have you heard of a lockdown drill? Here is a description from Michigan Radio.

Over the school intercom, he announces, "staff...at this time, please escort your students to a safe zone within your classes. At this time Waterford Mott High School is under Full Lockdown."

Within seconds – the entire complex goes quiet.

Research on school shooters suggest they look for easy targets of opportunity and avoid locked doors.

Lessel says the strategy is to make the school appear just about deserted..."shutting their doors, making sure they’re locked. Turning off the lights, leaving the blinds open. And then asking our students to retreat to a safe area within the room."

So throughout the school, teachers literally practice hiding with their students.

Peter Sipe teaches at an (excellent) charter school here, called Boston Collegiate. He wrote an op-ed for USA Today, about "lockdown drills"...i.e., preparing for a Newtown or Columbine type incident:

My mom and her classmates used to hide under their desks from the Russians. Eventually it was understood that desks were no match for nuclear weapons. I've just taught a roomful of kids to hide from Americans. My disbelief is exceeded only by my fear that, as with the old duck and cover drills, we too will realize such measures are futile. Then what?

I tell my students I'll only ever raise my voice if it's an emergency. I'm afraid, however, I can't shout loud enough for the gun "debate." But an old teacher trick is to lower your voice when you want to be heard. And so now I whisper to you: we are deciding that our children need to learn to avoid murder in the classroom.

Is that what they do in countries with the best schools? Is that what a civilized nation does? Maybe David Letterman -- of all people -- put it best when he asked, "Honestly? That's really life now? That's what it's going to be?"

Sipe's op-ed is worth reading.

These drills can go awry. Here is an example.

* * *

I'm "thinking aloud" here about these drills. We're talking about reducing the casualty rate in a very, very unlikely but horrific scenario.

Usually questions about these drills pose the following: is it possible student anxiety is going up, without a safety benefit?

My question: is it possible that the actual practicing of a lockdown drill increases or decreases just a tiny bit the chance of a student carrying out a shooting (a la Columbine, not Newtown)?

If there are some mentally deranged kids who commit mass shootings, presumably there are also some mentally deranged kids who consider mass shootings who come within a hair of committing them, but don't. And if they're considering them, what comes into play? "Getting noticed/attention" seems to be at least one factor, in some cases.

On the other hand, perhaps it's possible that a lockdown drill makes the horror more real to a "shooter on the cusp," and reduces his chance of attack.

I'm just skeptical that a twice per year drill has "zero effect" on "shooter on the cusp." Seems to me that participating in a lockdown drill might affect -- up or down, I don't know -- the chances of action for the 1 in 10 million kids who'd consider something like this.

I.e., at least with the Russians, we can't imagine that schoolkids practicing duck and cover made it more likely that either side would launch. But here we can.

Also, the time cost of a lockdown drill is pretty high. Article above suggests "At least 2 per year."

I hate to be zero-sum about these things, but what if all that adult energy were poured somehow into identifying boys who seem unhappy, disconnected, or bullied? We'd call it "Lockdown Alternative."

Let's imagine a large high school with 100 staff. The school identifies 20 kids who seem most acutely distressed or disconnected. Each kid gets 5 staff "attached." The 5 teachers (and other staff) invest a few hours each per year in some sort of positive outreach. Maybe inviting kid to lunch. Maybe something more individual-teacher-specific -- like teacher who runs drama club asks kid if he can show him the sound board for an hour, and if he likes it, he can be a tech for the school play.

In Lockdown Alternative, you'd skip the twice a year whole staff lockdown drill. But with that freed time, every adult would commit to 2 acts per year of outreach. Any of the "20 distressed kids" would be getting some version of 10 acts/year of adult kindness beyond the baseline, with each act being the equivalent of an hour or two.