Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 14
Lockdown Drills Prompt
Fear, Stress After Parkland
By Madeline Will
Every few months, the children in Kelly Myers'
preschool class in Roanoke, Va., go to a corner of their
classroom and hide.
Myers puts a barricade under the door knob to jam
it closed and turns off the lights. Then, the children,
who are 2 ½ to 3 ½ years old, sit quietly in the dark
until the all-clear. Often, students start to cry.
Lockdown drills such as these are now ubiquitous
in schools, but they take on new significance in the
wake of a horrific school shooting such as the one in
Parkland, Fla., in which a gunman killed 17 people
and wounded 15 others at a high school.
For many teachers, the realization sets in during
these drills that "if the door opens, they're coming for
me and my kids," Myers said. "My responsibility is
the kids and to keep them safe, and if I don't get that
door closed tight enough, they're coming for me."
And as the number of school shootings ticks up
year after year, teachers say the lockdown drills
never lose their impact. While some teachers say
they're glad their schools prepare for the worst-case
scenario, many also say the drills have become increasingly surreal and unnerving.
"I think there's something very sobering about the
lockdown drill," said Paul Hankins, an 11th grade
English teacher in Floyds Knobs, Ind. "If you do a
fire drill or a tornado drill, they seem like they're so
implausible. ... We don't come back from the fire drill
and talk about how it went."
With Parkland on their minds, teachers faced
with a lockdown have to ask the hard questions:
How would they respond in an emergency situation?
Would they take a bullet for their students, as several teachers did in Florida?
Typically, lockdown drills involve teachers closing
and locking their doors, hiding their students in a
corner of the classroom-or in cabinets and closets-and hunkering down until further instructions.
After the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, when a gunman fatally shot 20 elementary school children and
six adult staff members, many schools increased the
frequency of their lockdown drills. According to federal education data, lockdown drills were conducted
in about 95 percent of public schools in 2015-16.
"Any school that goes into a lockdown drill, it'll be
on the minds of our students-this is not a made-up
scenario," Hankins said.
Indeed, in the days after the Parkland school shooting, police have fielded dozens of copycat threats,
many on social media. Some of those threats have
led to precautionary school lockdowns.
An 'Ugly Blip' in the School Day
Students' reactions to lockdown drills vary, teachers
say: Some see the drills as routine and not a cause
for alarm, while others become stressed and anxious.
Some students need to process their emotions afterwards with their teachers, but some have a sense of
invincibility that isn't shaken by the exercise.
Phillip Brettschneider, a middle school teacher in
the California Bay Area, said the Columbine school
shooting happened when he was in 4th grade and
living in Wisconsin. "I can remember being absolutely terrified to return to school and having to
go through a lot of counseling just to go back to
school," he said.
But recently, Brettschneider asked his students
how they react when they see a school shooting on
the news. "They said, 'It's not a big deal, this is just
a thing that happens. Adults make it a big deal,'"
Launa Hall, a 2nd grade teacher in Arlington,
Va., said in a lockdown drill before the Parkland
shooting, half of her students understood what was
happening and sat in a fearful silence, while the
other half giggled, not quite grasping the gravity
of the exercise.
Lockdown drills are "a strange distraction in
what is otherwise a day full of very age-appropriate curriculum and age-appropriate games and activities and learning," Hall said. "It's a really ugly
blip in what is otherwise a beautiful school day for
The drills present a particularly tricky set of
challenges for teachers who have students with
special needs, including physical and emotional
According to Dusty Columbia Embury, an associate professor of special education at Eastern
Kentucky University, at the beginning of the year,
educators should consider: Will students with
physical disabilities have enough space to hide in
the classroom? How about the school library? What
supports will students with behavioral disabilities
need to stay calm?
Embury has been advocating for years for schools
to create individual emergency lockdown plans for
students with disabilities. "We definitely don't want
there to be any surprises," she said.
Ashli Dreher, a high school special education
teacher in Youngstown, N.Y., has a student with
autism who typically has difficulty staying quiet or
contained in one area. During lockdowns, Dreher
gives that student headphones and an iPad, loaded
with episodes of her favorite program. Then, Dreher
moves chairs in front of a designated area to create a
barrier so that her students stay in place.
"I recognize that a school shooter could enter the
building at any time, and I always think, what would
be the best way to save lives?" Dreher said.
Jim Gard, a math teacher at Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School in Parkland, where the recent
shooting took place, agreed that lockdown drills are
critically important to prepare students: "I am confident in saying that if we hadn't had that training
and if we hadn't had these conversations with our
kids, we would have had 117 [deaths] instead of 17."
Protecting Students at All Costs
Among those who died in the Parkland shooting
were three educators whose last acts were to protect
students from the gunman.
Geography teacher Scott Beigel was fatally shot
after he unlocked his classroom door to usher students to safety. Assistant football coach Aaron Feis
threw himself in front of students to shield them
from gunfire. And Chris Hixon, the school's athletic director and wrestling coach, was shot after
he raced to the scene to help students, according to
Accounts of their heroism inspired and sobered
teachers. They also prompted some difficult self-reflection and conversations, said Danielle Charron, an
educational consultant who runs a teacher wellness
center, Teacher Self Studio, in Denver.
"I've had teachers talk to me about how their
own children are asking questions: If their teacher
mommy or their teacher daddy is supposed to be the
hero, what does that mean for them?" she said.
Other teachers have told her they suddenly feel
aware of their own vulnerability, and they have felt
nervous going into work in the days following the
shootings. The hero narrative can be difficult for
those teachers to hear, she said.
Lockdown drills by design force educators to imagine what they would do in an active-shooter situation. During the most recent lockdown drill at Sage
Wegner's preschool in Salt Lake City, all of her 18
students couldn't fit in the corner. One child was in
the line of sight from the hallway, so she switched
places with him, putting him safely behind her.
"I was thinking, in the moment, this is what I'd have
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 28, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Teachers have to ask, 'Would I take a bullet?'
to do," she said. "Keeping yourself safe kind of goes
out the window when you're with kids that little.
... I would use myself as a human shield for them."
Meanwhile, some teachers say they think of
what they can use in their classroom as a makeshift weapon. A few years ago, a pipe burst in Hankins' school gym, destroying the gym floor. From
the wreckage, Hankins picked up some pieces of
wood that were decorated with swirls of paint in
the school's colors. He kept the board in his classroom, in case he ever needed to use it as a weapon.
"It's ambiguous in that the kids know it's a
piece of the old gym floor," he said, likening it to
classroom decor. "It only has to become the other
thing in the event that something has gone terribly wrong."
During lockdown drills, he holds the wood in his
"In my mind, if that door knob rattles and if
that door opens, I've got one swing, I've got one
chance to help myself and my kids," he said. "And
I have to think about what that looks like."
A Lack of Clarity
One alternative to lockdown drills is multioption response drills, which teach students a
variety of ways to respond to an active shooter
and escape. Those drills are more controversial,
since they teach young students how to "counter"
a shooter by running in zig-zag patterns, throwing
objects, and screaming to distract a gunman.
While lockdowns are still more common, a growing number of school districts have replaced or
supplemented traditional lockdown drills with
the multi-option response approach. Some school
safety consultants have pushed back against those
drills, saying that such an approach is not supported by evidence and might put children at risk.
That lack of clarity on how to best prepare for
the worst-case scenario gives many teachers a
sense of anxiety.
"I worry every day when I walk into the classroom: Will what we can do to protect students be
enough to save their lives?" said Dreher, the N.Y.
special education teacher.
Staff Writer Evie Blad contributed to this report.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP:
Magaly Newcomb, right
comforts her daughter
Haley Newcomb, 14,
a student at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High
School, at a makeshift
memorial outside the
school, in Parkland, Fla.
Student survivors from
Stoneman Douglas High
School participate in a
rally for gun control reform
on the steps of the state
capitol, in Tallahassee,
Fla., on Feb. 21.
Any school that
goes into a
it'll be on the
minds of our
not a made-up
11th grade English teacher,
Floyds Knobs, Fla.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018
News in Brief
Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
A Florida City Forever Changed
Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
On Social Media, Teens Witness, Grieve, Organize
Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
One State’s Dive Into K-12 Aid Figures
States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
The Editors: What Should Betsy DeVos Prioritize?
Margaret Spellings: Higher Education
Marilyn Anderson Rhames: Teacher Quality
Karla Phillips: Personalization
Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Shaun M. Dougherty: Career and Tech Ed
Mike Tenbusch : The ‘Have Nots’
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II: Racial-Equity Agenda
Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 5
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Florida City Forever Changed
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 13
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 17
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 21
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 25
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 27
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW4