In light of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. and other school shootings across the country, Glenwood Community High School is being proactive.
Glenwood took time out during the class day last week to explain and stress the importance of lock-down procedures to students at school.
Headed by principal Kerry Newman, the 45-minute presentation is part of the national Safe School Initiative, a study of school shootings and other school-based attacks that was conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Secret Service a decade ago. Newman’s presentation laid out exactly how Glenwood would handle an intruder or a gunman in the building and just how students and staff are to react in such a situation.
Newman said the intent of the presentations is two fold: familiarize students with actual lockdown procedures and to be aware of their surroundings.
“We’re articulating it much like we would the actual drills for a fire drill or a tornado drill,” she said. “But we also want to provide them with information to mentally rehearse for their safety, not just in school but in any environment. We want them to be vigilant with their safety. We’re giving them things to think about to keep them safe.”
The lockdown is the most effective means to deal with a potentially dangerous situation in the school. If a lockdown is called for over the school intercom, students and staff are instructed to go to a classroom, lock the door, cover windows, dim the lights, stay quiet and wait for law enforcement to arrive. Newman said the district already had a good lockdown protocol in place prior to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings but research has shown practice being prepared helps ease students and teachers fears. The onus, she said, is ultimately on students and teachers to remain calm, react smartly and follow the protocols she hopes will become second nature.
“I use the example of kids who have test anxiety. Well, those kid’s don’t have anxiety if they’re prepared,” Newman said.
The high school is planning a lockdown drill for later this month. Newman said the school will do two more over the next few months, one she and staff but not students will be informed of prior and another designed to catch both students and staff off guard.
“In every drill we do, we learn something,” Newman said. “You find out a door didn’t shut all the way, kids couldn’t get to where we thought they could get to. That first drill, even though everyone in the school will know about it, we’ll find out a lot of things. Even in a routine fire drill we learn something about our procedures.”
During the presentation, Newman reminded students there is no profile of a school shooter, most incidents last less than 10 minutes and are rarely ended by law enforcement intervention.
The school is also instituting a “stay-put” protocol in the case of a disturbance in the school. The stay-put has students remaining in shut classrooms with teaching continuing. Considered less intrusive than the lock-down, the stay-put would be put into effect in situations of a drug dog inspection, angry parent, out-of-control individual or a seriously injured person in the building.
“A ‘stay-put’ is needed on some occasions,” Newman said, recalling a recent incident with an angry parent that quickly escalated into shouting. “If we had had a stay-put, we could have prevented students form coming and going and having to see that. It’s an aspect to the drill that I think can help a ton.”
As part of the lockdown and stay-put procedures, the high school is revamping its building access policies. Plans are also underway to secure all doors with alarms, cameras are being updated and bullet resistant glass is planned for the office area and main entrance.