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Schools in Lockdown: Time to Panic or to Shrug?

Ellen Levitt

Posted on October 1, 2018 14:48

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Should you really panic when your school or your child's school go into a lockdown, especially a "soft" lockdown? A brief look at this.

April 20, 2019 will be a mournful 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999. I bring up this infamous date and incident because late last week my younger daughter's Brooklyn high school, also my alma mater, had a "soft lockdown." And people have been reacting to this in various ways.

The principal of the school wrote a letter of explanation, which was sent out by the parent coordinator via email, text and on the PupilPath system. The core of the letter says, "Our school community had a soft lockdown as there was a report of a possible weapon on our school campus."

I learned subsequently that a student was found to have had a gun, and then the police removed the student with a gun from the premises. I am unhappy about this, but overall I believe the school is quite safe and I am not afraid for my child's welfare here.

The school had soft lockdowns a few other times in the past few years.

In two incidents, students were found to have been carrying equipment such as shears from the Stage Crew workshop without the substitute teachers recognizing them. In a separate case, a student from another school slipped into our building, but apparently did not carry a weapon.

There was once a lockdown at a large high school in southern Brooklyn where I taught previously. That time, a student's non-custodial parent had come to the school, he was roaming the halls, looking for the teenager.

This past March, one of the most popular high schools in Queens had a soft lockdown after a student threatened to shoot others on his campus because he had no friends. He too had no weapon but an angry, threatening attitude.

Last week, a New York City high school, this time in Manhattan, had a brief soft lockdown with no bad consequences.

In the light of the shootings in Columbine, Sandy Hook (2012), and more recently, the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida (2017), students and families and our society, in general, have much to fear. But should we see ourselves caught in a non-stop frightful environment? Should we panic each time there is a soft lockdown?

I have seen first-hand that many of these incidents are actually misunderstandings.

The NYC Department of Education has protocol points about emergencies like this. School districts around the country have instituted them as well. But should we take this in stride or be moderately vigilant? Or, worry ourselves sick over this?

A few parents on my local Listserv discussed the two NYC high school lockdowns last week. One parent wrote, "We let the powers that be use fear to implement and have us accept all sorts of nonsensical, invasive, human rights and privacy reducing madness into our lives."

How should we go forward? Calm and aware, mildly paranoid, or full-on freaking out? 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on October 1, 2018 14:48

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