Do lockdown procedures protect students from possible catastrophe?

Students and staff question whether drills are realistically achieving their goals of preparation in case of emergency.

30 Students participate in an Instagram Poll where 27 voted NO and 3 voted YES. Students gave their opinions on how prepared lockdown drills make them feel in case of a real emergency.

30 Students participate in an Instagram Poll where 27 voted NO and 3 voted YES. Students gave their opinions on how prepared lockdown drills make them feel in case of a real emergency.

On April 20, 1999 the Columbine High School Massacre in Colorado threw the nation into a pit of grief and fear. Mothers and fathers grieved over their lost children, teachers and students became afraid of their places of learning, and the atmosphere surrounding public school safety changed forever. 

Year after year, schools across America are thrown into deep grief when yet another tragedy hits the news cycle; another school has been shot up and there are casualties along with traumatized students, parents and staff. 

“There is always a reset, a reevaluation,” media-center specialist Coleen Pinyan said. “Is what we’re doing the best thing?”

Once a semester, students at Northwest follow Lockdown drill procedure. Teachers and other faculty lock their doors, close their blinds and lead students into their designated hiding spots in each classroom and everyone goes silent while the administrators walk around the building making sure everyone is following protocol. This drill has been integrated into schools for years. It’s meant to keep students to prepare in case any kind of intruder manages to come into the school and pose any kind of threat. 

But how valuable is this “practice” and how will it transfer in a possible threat?

“I’m not sure how efficient they can be,” science teacher Steve Russilo said. “I guess they’re better than nothing.”

Lockdowns are meant to protect students from possible harm but most of these lockdowns are unsuccessful when intruders have previous experience in the school. In the case of school shootings, which are the reason why these lockdown drills were established across public school systems in America to begin with, are evoked by alumi or current students with some kind of mental illness or feelings of ostracism from their classmates. 

“If someone comes into the school wanting to do harm, they will do harm,” Russilo said. 

Public schools are open campuses. Larger schools have more people to keep track of, making it much more difficult to keep track of possibly dangerous individuals. 

“They know what time of day it is, they know school is in session and the parking lot is full of cars,” Russilo said. 

Fire drills and tornado drills are also part of the routine to practice safety in schools. Lockdown drills, however, are odd because although they are the easiest ones to practice, they arise in the worst consequences. 

Going through lockdown drills sometimes is weird and new teachers have to adjust since many of them never had lockdown drills during their time in high school. Pinyan, who has been working with schools for more than nine-years reflects on what her first lockdown procedure looked like. 

“(My first lockdown) was a lot of pressure,” Pinyan said. “There is so much riding on a kid’s safety.”

Three years ago, Northwest went into lockdown. Supposedly, a man had been spotted with a gun in the neighborhood next to the school, so principal Ralph Kitley announced that we were on lockdown during the class change to sixth period. A teacher grabbed my arm and put me along with another thirty or so kids into her mobile classroom, locked the doors and threw a handful of desks in front of the door. She grabbed a stapler, presumably to use as a weapon in case an intruder came in, and told us to be silent. 

This is the same bravery many teachers conjure when there is a threat to their kids. 

“I am fifty years old,” Russilo said. “I’ve already had my kids and my life. If I go down in the line of duty, what’s the worst thing that happens?”

However, the drills do provide a structured procedure to these emergencies, reducing the chaos and anxiety of students and staff in case something happens. 

“In elementary school (I was) in a real lockdown,” sophomore Caden Miller said. “It turned out not to be anything, but because of the drill we knew what to do.”

The time right after a shooting is the most anxious time for students when thinking about their safety on their campus. However, this is not an attitude that is held constantly. 

“You get in your own head,” Miller said. “Everybody thinks it would never happen to me.”

Days following a tragedy, conversations surrounding school safety, gun control and mental health awareness tend to spark in the classroom; teachers focus on letting their students express their feelings of fear and comforting their students when necessary. 

“It’s all about perception,” Miller said. “This is something necessary that we need for our safety, not a hassle.”

Students are taking the initiative to better protect classrooms across America. Movements like March for our Lives have taken off and built a platform for students to voice their opinions over shootings and lockdown procedures. 

“It gives me hope that young people are into it,” Russilo said. “Nothing motivates change like a catastrophe.”

“Nothing motivates change like a catastrophe.” ”

— Steve Russilo

Students that participated in an Instagram poll voice their opinions on lockdown drills:

Senior Mary Yin “Lockdown drills are fine for establishing calm and order for students and teachers in the event of an emergency, but they don’t teach us how to stay quiet—no one actually stays quiet during these drills. They don’t teach us the actual danger of an intruder—we know it’s not real. They don’t teach us to stay vigilant and learn the signs—they teach us how to chill out with the lights off and doors closed like we’ll be just as safe and calm when an actual intruder comes. It’s a good initiative, but it’s not enough. I believe that safety and prevention should be taught through actual coursework/presentations and perhaps even speakers and documentaries because no one will know the actual terror of a real lockdown or the importance of keeping yourself alert at all times through a drill that happens a couple of times a year.” 

Senior Zoe Michalak “People don’t know how to act during them and don’t take them seriously.”

Junior Rivers West “Although they don’t fully prepare, it’s better than having no clue what to do”

Sophomore Duna Kasis “People still get killed, mainly outside the classroom.”

Junior Katie Morris “Sitting in a corner and just locking a door makes kids even more vulnerable.”

Senior Katelin Nierle “Locking a door and hiding just provides an easier target.”

Senior Reece Gentry “I feel the severity of the potential threat is not accurately communicated.”

Senior Gretta Overmyer “I doubt any of us would in an emergency hide in our rooms, sitting like ducks.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn Sumner “If something were to happen, we would probably not be in the classroom. We would be running to save our lives.”

Anonymous junior  “I’ve had multiple teachers address the class and tell us in the case of a real lockdown we would run in a zig-zag pattern to the fire station and/or get to our cars and leave as soon as possible.”

Sophomore Sofia Saldarriaga “The school is not acknowledging that students won’t react calmly. In a situation like that, one would panic instantly.”

Senior Jordan Lech “It is only adequate preparation.”