Lockdown Drills

If you work in the field of education, you have become all-too-familiar with the Lockdown Drill. This is our generation’s version of the Duck and Cover. Within my school, we do lockdown drills several times throughout the year.

During the drill, we turn off the lights, lock the door, and sit silently in a corner out of sight from the windows and doors. We remain this way for at least 15 minutes while an administrator, playing the role of ‘intruder’, walks the hallways jiggling each door and peering into windows to see if s/he can find anyone unprepared. This is how its done in every school across the country.

To prepare for lockdown drills, I always keep my door locked – always on the defensive. I’ve covered the windows by the door with paper. I keep a mental checklist of extra steps I would also take in a real lockdown situation, including having students barricade the door with furniture, shoving smaller students into closets and cabinets, grabbing my cell phone, and distributing classroom objects that could serve as makeshift weapons if our door is breached. Sounds pretty scary and….dark, doesn’t it?

You see, I’m quite serious about lockdown drills. Dead serious. I’ve been through active shooter training with the cooperation of our local police  and fire departments. They fired a weapon in the school so we could hear what it would sound like. We practiced triaging and treating students, It was horrific, sobering, and terrifying all at once. I hope I never forget… no wait...never use the critically important information I received in that training.

I recently read this article, and it really hit home. It is written from a teacher’s perspective on the psychological trauma she and her students experience while ‘Rehearsing for Death’ during a particularly memorable lockdown drill with her Pre-K students.It emphasizes something I always tell my middle school students to keep them focused and serious during the drill. I tell them to treat each drill as if it is the real thing. Why? Because it could be, and we may never know. We have both planned and unplanned drills, and they all start the same way. We are simply told to “Go into lockdown.” The word drill is never used.

Preschoolers are hopefully blissfully unaware of the purpose and history behind lockdown drills, but middle schoolers actually know what’s going on in the world and that there is real reason to be frightened. As this mother asks, how do we talk to them about this? How do we mentally prepare them? How do we – can we even – protect them from the psychological trauma of simply living in fear of this very real and possible situation?

Is this upsetting you yet? It upsets me. It upsets my students. It has become our school culture of preparing to die. Imagine how this affects students’ learning and wellbeing. Will it always be this way? Are we ok with that? What will it take to enact a change?

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2 Comments on Lockdown Drills

  1. Ana Inés Sanchez Ruiz
    February 24, 2016 at 9:02 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Kristen. I have found this entry very interesting and intend to show it to my elder students. How long have these drills been in place so far?

    • kdembro
      February 25, 2016 at 8:51 am (7 years ago)

      Hi, Ana. I am not sure when the drills started, but they have been in place as long as I have been a classroom teacher (9 years).


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