what parents need to know about school lockdown drills

When it comes to safety in schools today, many schools are not only implementing fire drills but lockdown drills as well. Lockdown drills are a set of procedures designed to have the occupants in a building familiarize themselves with ways to protect themselves against a threat, such as an armed intruder. When it comes to school lockdown drills, there is no one set of uniform regulation or mandate, and requirements for what school districts are to implement in their own schools vary from state to state.

In general, though, school lockdown drills involve teaching children and adults how to barricade themselves in classrooms and hide from an armed and violent intruder.

States that have laws mandating lockdown drills in schools, such as Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and New Jersey, require schools to conduct a set number of lockdown and/or evacuation drills a year. These mandates often require drills to be held for grades from kindergarten to college, in public as well as private schools.

The best way parents can find out what the requirements for lockdown drills and other safety measures are in their child’s school is to ask their child’s school and look on their own state’s Department of Education site.

Schools today are conducting various types of drills to protect students, faculty, and staff against armed and violent intruders. The most common type of safety measure involves lockdown drills in which students and adults practice hiding, staying away from doors and windows, and staying quiet.

Another type of safety drill involves having local law enforcement instructors teach kids and adults defensive maneuvers that include not only hiding, but also evaluating when to evacuate the building, and, more controversially, fighting back when confronted directly by a gunman. One such program being used today is A.L.i.C.E (Alert, Lockdown, inform, Counter, Evacuate), which was founded, by Greg Crane, a former SWAT officer.

Crane criticizes the typical lockdown drills for focusing on teaching people to lock themselves in a room and hide. “Having a one size fits all answer to a situation is dangerous,” says Crane. “In ninety-eight percent of these situations, you have a solo shooter,” says Crane. “If I knew that I have a killer inside the building, then I would run outside.”

Crane advocates teaching all strategies, which includes running away or even trying to fight back against the gunman when threatened directly. “If a principal has just told them something is happening in the hallway, kids and teachers should know to think, ‘What are our options? Where are the windows? Can we run out of an exit?” says Crane. A drill, according to Crane, should ideally include kids and teachers developing and discussing the best options to a violent threat and then having those ideas reviewed and evaluated by safety experts. Parents, says Crane, should have a talk with school administrators and ask, “What is the plan? Why is it just to hide? What are all the options?”

But other school safety experts like Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, a private firm that specializes in K to 12 school security assessments and crisis preparedness training assessments, strongly caution against any school security procedures that teach kids to attack intruders or formulate their own plans.