Delving into the topic of the lockdown drill


Emily Payne and Anna Parsons

In the United States public schools, the lockdown drill is virtually the same, no matter the area, no matter the state, no matter the concerns. A student can be a victim, a perpetrator, or a witness of school violence. In the event of a lockdown situation in the building, many students wonder, how effective is the lockdown drill?

According to the PWCS Risk Management document, “a lockdown event occurs when there is an immediate hostile threat to the school, staff, or students.” This may include an intruder, weapons on school grounds, or an angry parent or guardian that does not have custody of the child but is trying to take them from school. Once a lockdown is announced, staff and students should seek cover, lock the door, and turn the lights off. All school activities will cease and the police are called. Teachers are told to not answer the door for anyone, including students in the hallway. Only if an officer or someone apart of administration comes to the door should students be released. A student who finds themselves in the hallways should find the nearest open classroom, or take cover in a bathroom.

Many states have increased school security, such as an employ in security officers and adult supervision in the hallways before, during, and after school. Prince William County enforces many of these precautions, and has also increased the amount of drills students must partake in. Some states such as Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Texas have decided to allow teachers to carry and conceal guns on campuses. When asked about this controversial law that multiple states are considering, Health and Physical Education teacher Jay Burkhart responded, “I don’t think that it would be a good idea to have [the gun law] in Virginia. I’m not really a gun person in general.”

When asked about one’s knowledge of shootings in the United States, most can recall about two to three, including Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary, and the Virginia Tech massacre.  However, there are many more incidents than that; since 2013, there have been at least 197 school shootings in America, which is an average of nearly one a week, according to the National School Safety and Security Association. If all of these schools were said to have similar and effective lockdown drills, then what went wrong? Many politicians and officials claim that this boils down to mental health and the  increase in media coverage. In a study done by the American Psychological Association they found that “violent video games increase aggressive, angry thoughts, angry feelings, aggressive behaviors, and a decrease in empathic feelings and prosocial behaviors” Psychologist Peter Langman commented on the violence portrayed in video games, saying, “There is that cultural script that a lot of kids are very influenced by. We don’t have a lot of alternative cultural scripts for [kids] in terms of popular media.”
One assessment done by Campus Safety Magazine has recommended having more than one type of lockdown procedure. Author Chris Dorn wrote, While it is normally good to keep things simple in school crisis planning, we have found that schools that only have one protocol based on active shooter situations and other crisis events have a high failure rate because school administrators are averse to overreacting in a situation they feel is too “minor” to warrant a lockdown. Having a lower level, “preventive” or “soft” lockdown option is important because most situations where lockdowns are needed do not involve weapons.”

The state of Virginia requires no less than four lockdown drills each school year, two of which must be within the first 20 days of the year. Battlefield assistant principal Billy Childress commented on the authenticity of the drills, saying, “The [lockdown drill] is safe and effective. The only flaw is the fact that participants don’t take it seriously enough.” While the drill can be a nuisance to some as it takes time out of instruction, it is important that everyone treat it as the real deal.

Head of School Security John Zook and Battlefield principal Ryan Ferrera both agree in the fact that “Students should speak up about their concerns [so that] we can make everyone feel safer.” Students and parents are encouraged to discuss concerns and openly talk about being aware and cautious in every situation.