The tragedy that happened in Sandy Hook Elementary School is yet another unimaginable occurrence that took the lives of children and teachers. Like many parents, my wife and I wanted nothing more than to hold our children extra close that day. Now, in the wake of the tragedy, people want something done. With the shooter dead, people direct their need for resolution on changing gun laws. Many people are making absurd requests, such as arming teachers. My question is, what are our schools doing to prevent such a tragedy from happening in our local schools? Is there currently a rehearsed emergency activity for active shooters coming on campus?
After speaking to a few teacher friends that work within the valley, I have found that it is up to the school to implement safety procedures for active shooters. That’s right; some schools do not have any safety procedures for active shooters. One teacher told me: “We don’t have a lockdown procedure. However, my principal said for the next 10 days we should keep our doors locked, and from now on always stop adults and ask for their visitors badge. We usually don’t question adults as we assume they are parents on campus. Parents are supposed to sign in but we have lots of gates, and although some are kept locked, some aren’t. Hopefully we as a school can come up with a way to ensure all visitors stop in the office to sign in. It’s awful we have to think of this stuff.” Those schools that have a procedure, at best, have very little that they can do against this type of situation. The main focus of the school in this type of emergency is placing the school on lockdown. Unfortunately, these procedures are only helpful if the threat is known ahead of time. Here is one response I received from a local teacher: “We do have a lockdown procedure in place. But there are flaws especially if the person is someone that everyone knows. Our lockdown procedure only works if a random (stranger) shooter comes on campus with guns blazing. The procedures do not address someone who may be let into a classroom and then opens fire. Our lockdown procedures also rely on the office being the first to know of a potential situation, and then they sound the call to lockdown. My school has been put on many lockdowns in situations where there is someone in the neighborhood running from the police, or they are looking or someone, but we have never had someone come onto campus. It is definitely a flawed system and now my husband wants to just sit outside my classroom all day.”
Local colleges have a stronger system in place, some involving teachers being placed in a text alert program. Most colleges have an on-campus police department that handles such situations. Our local high schools usually have an on-campus armed school resource officer from a local police department, or sheriff’s officer. Each school district employs many security officers that are not armed. Also, many schools have a Watch D.O.G.S. or similar program. These types of programs allow parents to volunteer on campus and become a helpful and watchful eye.
I know many schools are now creating and implementing procedures that help against active shooters. Although schools are currently revising their emergency planning, these notes are not meant for public knowledge. Also, as a professional courtesy, I have been asked not to include the details of emergency planning involving active shooters for my school or any other school. If you are a parent, and wish to know the details of the policy for active shooters, you may visit or contact your child’s school and get the information directly. I am informed that all schools will be taking extra precaution until winter break due to the Sandy Hook Elementary incident.