Readers — What’s interesting about this bhntbinbhs
lockdown story, which took place at Wharton High School in Tampa, FL, Â after a student reported hearing something or other about a gun, is not just that kids were locked in their classrooms for seven hours. It’s not just that one kid admitted (on camera!) that he ended up peeing in a bottle. It’s not even that in the end, a girl said she was grateful to the school for “keeping us safe” — from a threat that never materialized.
No, what’s interesting is that I have no idea how we can stop this from occurring with more and more frequency. How can any school administrator NOT take drastic action if he or she hears about a potential threat on campus? On the other hand, treating every rumor or even mis-heard remark as a red alert seems completely over the top. It not only disrupts school, it creates the impression to kids, parents and the community that children live under the constant threat of death. Which, despite isolated cases of madness, they don’t.
It’s those isolated cases, however, that are just like kidnapping stories. They are so shocking — and generate so much media (this articleÂ muses on that) — that they reverberate in our souls and rewire our worries. Regaining perspective is not only hard, it is sometimes impossible or illegal, after laws get changed and liability rules get re-written. So: I’d like to hear your thoughts on how to keep us from turning schools into the next TSA-type territory, where everyone is considered a suspect, and no inconvenience is considered too onerous, “for safety’s sake.” – L.
FOX 13 News
Even in the early 90s when I was in HS, we had one or two lockdowns. It’s texas, people have weapons, whatever. That said — HOW COULD ONE LAST 7 HOURS?! How long does it take to evaluate this stuff, people? 30-60 mins tops. Really.
In my high school, we had a tradition of bringing squirt guns to school on the last day of class. And using them, of course.
If anyone tried that today, they’d send out a Navy Seal team bigger than the once that got Osama Bin Laden.
SEVEN hours? Now kids know if they want to delay a test, all they have to do is say “I heard someone talking about a gun in the hall, I don’t know who….” and school stops.
Students were patted down, lockers and book bags searched. It took them 7 hours to do that? To invade everyone’s privacy because someone heard the word “gun” mentioned?
Gunning the motor
Bubble gum (sounds like gun!)
Gunner, position in the military
I could go on…..
Well, I suppose they could change the terminology–so, a “glue gun” would become a “glue applicator,” or some such. But, all it would take is for someone to forget, and say, “I made a sculpture in art class today, using a glue gun,” and then someone could overhear, overreact, and shut down the whole school. Also, I agree about the invasion of privacy–doesn’t it violate human rights to search people’s bags and lockers, and to force them to go to the bathroom in bottles, in front of other people?
I can see it now. Saying the word “gun” in any context while in school will be banned and punishable, followed by the word “gum” because it’s too similar, continue ad absurdum.
It’s got to be about standards and training in threat assessment and mitigation. Education professionals are already immersed in using evidence-based methods to achieve measurable results; this area shouldn’t be that difficult.
You know, sometimes when I’m in a plane the turbulence gets so bad, I think to myself, “this could be my time. And if it is, so be it.” Seriously. Even when I have my kids with me.
When something is so rare and random that you truly cannot prevent it, it is stupid to try. Yes, they should have an emergency procedure that makes some kind of sense, but ultimately there is a time to leave things to fate, or prayer, or whatever you believe in.
Now how do we get enough people to accept the inability to control every moment of every day?
How about a mandatory statistics class for everyone who wants a say in school or community policy?
Horrible story. And the larger societal implications are chilling, but not an easy solution. Why? Because Terror, Inc. is what drives the news media.
It’s become like a horror movie, where you can have the vicarious thrill of escaping danger, and the news media know it and play up to it. It drives ratings and gets people to turn in. They can then clutch their pearls in horror–horror!–and have an emotional experience of being saved. While this is great in literature and fiction, it is invading our news media and the “reality” TV business. Sadly, it gets people to tune in, get their danger kicks and then still be safe in their homes.
This is what the initial purpose of fairy tales was, as lessons for children about morality, etc. The problem is that when it becomes part of the “news,” it has the opposite effect of creating a climate of fear that is divorced from real reality. (Horrid to think that such a locution is necessary, but I think it is.) Everything has become amplified for the most emotional impact. The problem with that is that as biological creatures, we can have an emotional reaction in a heartbeat, while a reasoned response takes a little longerâ€¦and certainly doesn’t deliver good copy.
Until we curtail our selfish thrill addiction and keep fiction where it belongs, this will probably continue, sad as it seems. Even in light of greater safety, it is always the drama of the aberrant and abhorrent actions that make the news, and becomes the “monster under the bed.” It is largely imaginary, but that matters little. People believe it’s true because the fact that it hasn’t happened to them gives them a sense of security in “a world run mad.” It’s intellectually shallow and irrational, but that is the way it has always been.
We are living in a Chicken Little world, and it breaks my heart.
I would be demanding them to release my child to me. They are safer letting kids go home than keeping them locked in a room all day.
I tell you what, I’d have probably been fired had this occurred at my school. Once we went over an hour I’d have told my students to call their parents to pick them up in front of the school since my classroom faces that street and we would have opened the window and climbed out.
What I find interesting is that the PARENTS would allow this forced imprisonment of their own children. I didn’t read the story, just your blog. But I would bet that if a parent arrived at the school to take their OWN CHILD home, they would have been denied. Denied for sure during school hours, but I’m assuming the 7hr period didn’t magically end with the school bell. So what if you want YOUR OWN child? You can’t have him. Parental rights? 😛 Basic human civil rights? Ha! Basic dignity that all US prisoners are guaranteed by law, including the use of toilets? Nope! A prisoner would have a valid lawsuit if forced to pee in a bottle.
Again and again when you write about this stuff I just cannot believe that American parents are so unquestioning about the ‘ownership’ of their kids.
Didn’t you write one about a Dad who tried to pick up his kids on foot, but the school wouldn’t release them because they only released to approved CARS? Wasn’t he arrested when he questioned that absurdity? That he was the legal parent, that the school day was officially over, didn’t mean anything.
One way to avoid this………….stop all lockdowns. Lockdowns are about as effective as the old hiding under your desk during the Cuban Missle Crisis.
Lockdowns do not work.
“Lockdowns do not work.”
Of course they work. They give the people who initiate them a power trip. That’s what they’re for, and they work.
Right now, there is an epic water GUN battle going on in my neighborhood. My son just came to the door (I won’t let anyone in-they’re soaked) because the cap to his good gun fell off and he wants duct tape. There’s at least 20 kids running around with guns. They also play Manhunt at night(with jailbreaks).
I might suggest they play Lockdown and where someone just says the word *gun* and sit and stare at walls for hours. Go into a forced jail by adults who have lost serious touch with reality. I don’t think it would go over well. Sounds too much like a dystopian young adult novel.
Perhaps inform kids that being overheard mentioning certain words at school – for example, while describing a current news story or the plot of a movie they saw last night – is a handy way to get out of that big test they were worrying about? (It’s faintly embarrassing to me that they’d need to be informed of this; any self-respecting nerd of my generation would’ve recognized a knee-jerk propensity to panic over nothing as an exploitable vulnerability in about three seconds time.)
Administrators will remain stupid until there’s an incentive not to be. Maybe if kids start using administrative stupidity as a way to evade control, it would provide the right incentive.
“Perhaps inform kids that being overheard mentioning certain words at school â€“ for example, while describing a current news story or the plot of a movie they saw last night â€“ is a handy way to get out of that big test they were worrying about?”
Look at the smiling faces of these high school students at the window. They got on the news! When we turn so paranoid that phrases and words without concrete threats shut down operations for 7 hours, getting on the news sounds good.
Gunning the motor
Bubble gum (sounds like gun!)
Gunner, position in the military”
And, of course, the surname Gunn. I’ve known a few.
We are hosting a foreign exchange student this year. One day in March, I got a phone call from her and she was frantic. The high school was on lockdown and she was stuck in the bathroom. She had no idea why they were on lockdown, but because she was in the bathroom, she wasn’t allowed out in the hall and was alone and not receiving word of anything going on.
At the time, I didn’t respond right away to her texts and phone calls because I had my phone off while putting a baby down for a nap. Since she couldn’t reach me, she called her mom in Norway, who then called me, very nervous. I finally got in touch with a friend of mine who subs at the high school and found out that they were on lockdown because there was an incident of domestic violence at the apartments down the street from the school and there were reports of a gun. They were on lockdown for about 2-1/2 hours (she was stuck in the bathroom the whole time).
What an American experience. In Norway, they only put schools on lockdowns for real reasons. Here, they put them on lockdown any time there is any report of a gun anywhere within a mile radius of the school (or so it seems). I think that was probably her least favorite part about being here.
As long as the vast, vast majority of children survive (this was NOT always the case, and is a VERY recent development), our cultural assumption that CHILDREN CANNOT DIE, EVER will lead us to take irrational and absurd actions in the service of “protection.”
I see this evidenced in stories such as this one, I see this evidenced in all the stories of parents being investigated by “protective services” for things like “child alone at playground” and “child walking a mile alone” and “child left in car while someone runs into the dry cleaners.” It is because children never die, or die SO infrequently, that our culture has become hysterical.
You’d think we’d all be grateful that our kids survive infancy and childhood except in the most extreme cases. But no, we’ve come to be pathologically averse to the idea of a child’s death, BECAUSE it is so rare, and now we are chanting it over and over again, “This is a parent’s worst nightmareâ€¦ worst nightmareâ€¦ worst nightmareâ€¦”
And it used to come true, over and over again. Throughout the history of our species. It was part of the natural order of things. Look at every other animal species. They don’t have a 100% juvenile survival rate. And yet squirrels still allow their young to go out and play and forage.
I take a long view of homo sapiens and I think we’re headed for a large correction very soon. This correction will make all of this absurd “security theatre” and prosecution of everyday parenting decisions look like the good old days.
Enjoy them, folks. We’re headed for some very different territory.
Only in the south!
I don’t know how to stop it, but it is certainly getting worse. In Michigan, we have had several dozen school districts say that they would go into lockdown anytime they thought someone had a gun in school. While this may seem reasonable, there are a not so small number of people that have concealed carry permits. This policy applied no matter what the circumstance and they even indicated they would call the police and go into lockdown even if they knew that person had a permit. They wanted to be safe.
I can understand going into lockdown if there was some external threat, but I don’t see the wisdom of locking everyone in the building if there is some nut case wandering the halls.
@Maggie: You’re joking, but IIRC on this very blog there was a report of a Deaf child named Gunnar whose personal name-sign was a pun. As in, it involved the ASL sign “gun,” which looks like what you’d expect. The school authorities wanted him to change his name because somebody pointing a finger across their own body was considered to be threatening behavior!
someone said the G word, means everyone within 10 miles must get psychiatric help to get over the trauma!
And thus society has caused another word to become anathema, just as the “N word” (negro…) which in turn has now lead to the word (and even the colour) black being inacceptable in ‘polite conversation’.
But of course the now-ubiquitous presence of police in schools, carrying GUNS, is no problem. No problem whatsoever.
And the outcome was “No gun was found” as reported by my local news station(Same county as the school). One hour later the same news station,in order to boost broadcast since no gun means less viewers, changed their story and claimed there was a gun, but a B.B gun! The news is to blame as well for this hysteria.
And when I was in high school in the 70’ds it was no different..Drugs,gangs and guns. In class I was taped on the back while the student behind me pulled a .45 out of his right jacket pocket and a .22 from his left as he said: Which one would you like to buy? So guns in school are nothing new. The only difference is back then proper protocol was taken and it was kept hush, now it’s hysteria whenever someone cry’s wolf.
Lockdowns do not accomplish anything. Even those is law enforcement do not think they are something that should happen. Those in law enforcement of course that speak off the record where they won’t be seen as anti-safety.
If a school actually feels there is a threat in the school, they should be making some preset bogus announcement. This tells teachers they are looking into something, and to not allow kids in the halls at that time. Then another preset bogus announcement to signal all clear. Beneficial by product is the person they are concerned about does not know what is going on. No big show of a lockdown, no disruption to class time, no fear, just low key control of whatever is going on. How hard can it be.
Start every school day with this announcement:
“Good morning, students. Today – you are alive. Which simply means that at any time, for any reason, in any manner – you might die. Have a nice day and remember, no running in the halls.”
As I see it, the only solution is to get Americans to understand that security is a trade-off, in which we sacrifice something to gain some measure of safety. By forcing airline passengers to fly nude and sedated we can reduce the chance of plane hijackings to near zero, but of course flyers would have to undergo the experience of being knocked out and naked every time they want to vacation in Aruba. To come back to the lockdown situation, we have to decide if losing class time and frightening children is worth the risk that the rumor of a handgun turns out to be fatally true.
Once people have decided that X trade-off is worthwhile, they need to be confronted with all of the consequences of that decision. Frequent lockdowns will mean a per-lockdown fee to cover the additional demand on emergency responders and school administrators. All these lockdown days will result in a longer school year, so parents will need to plan for the possibility of a shorter summer vacation. The school will need to make certain structural changes â€“ alarms, automatically locking doors, more comprehensive medical facilities, etc. â€“ to make lockdowns as effective as necessary, so taxpayers should prepare for a property tax increase to cover the costs.
I’m not sure how far this will go towards solving the problem â€“ Americans are pretty good at demanding services they’re not willing to pay for â€“ but I can’t see any other way forward. We can’t expect people to simply lay aside their fears, but perhaps facing the unpleasant consequences of indulging those fears will do what no lecture can.
Am I the only one who finds it an odd that the response to a rumor of a gun at school was to lock everyone in that school with the alleged gun and alleged gunman for 7 hours?
Quote: “How can any school administrator NOT take drastic action if he or she hears about a potential threat on campus? On the other hand, treating every rumor or even mis-heard remark as a red alert seems completely over the top.”
That’s called being between a rock and a hard spot!
@Donna, that was my thought. Why on earth would the kids be safer locked in the school, if the fear is that there is a threat in the school?
How many people here experienced tornado warnings in the area they lived in? Unless you live in a country where they do not have any tornadoes, probably 100%. Now how many tornadoes did you actually experience? I’m sure much much fewer than the number of warnings. During my lifetime, I probably lived thru > 100 tornado warnings and not once have I experienced one. Now this is certainly not to say that tornadoes don’t occur or that we should ignore the warnings or that we should assume they will never occur subsequent to a warning. But if you really do a ratio of the numbers, you’ll find that the number of warnings we receive will far exceed the actual number of tornadoes we experience.
Similar situation here. Then again, perhaps I’m comparing apples with oranges. If a tornado has been sighted, then the warning is warranted even though most times it will not reach our area. But if nobody is seen with a gun and is just a fabrication of rumors, perhaps there should not be warning to begin with.
I STILL feel they need to improve on the tornado warning process. Perhaps better technology will improve its accuracy.
Agree with Warren that incidents (or potential issues) need to be handled as low key as possible.
My high school had an incident with a pipe bomb going off next to the school injuring two students (who had made the bomb). The evening news covered it in 2 sentences, no image.
How? It probably helped that the school flat lied to keep it quiet. Said the rumors were false and to carry on as normal. Only the two hospitalized boys, a few sheriff’s officers, a handful of administrators, and medical staff (covered by HIPPA); even knew something newsworthy had happened. The rest of us were totally unaffected. There was no drama. Which is undoubtedly why The news report sounded like a reading of the police blotter. It was probably all they had.
Of course my parents managed to get a bit freaked out anyhow. My dad knew what was happening at the hospital and they forgot I had a regularly scheduled activity that day. So when they couldn’t find a note they figured I didn’t get home. My mom had been swept up in a (traumatic) mass witness hold/lockdown in 1968… so she was worried I was in lockdown. Once I got home and they realized I was clueless, they were mostly fine.
Yeah right, the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.
Someone pointed this out on the FRK Facebook page, but I didn’t see it here and it bears repeating. If a parent locked their child in a room for 7 hours without access to food or bathroom it would probably be considered abuse, and the parent would have to face consequences (we have seen examples on this site of parents prosecuted for much less).
So why is it OK when a school does the same thing?
Thanks for that. I think that the lockdown/tornado warning situations would be analogous if, for example, every time a tornado warning was issued, residents were immediately evacuated to an area 50 miles away from their homes. After the third or fourth warning and evacuation, I suspect most people in the area would say, “Thanks for the warnings but since the last four times I drove 50 miles for no reason, I’ll just keep an eye on the sky and my cellar door unlocked.” I’m not sure what the lockdown equivalent of that is, though.
OK, can somebody tell me how “lockdown” HELPS in a situation where a nutcase his walking the halls with a gun? OK, I suppose that if the students are in the halls and milling around it would be harder to identify the nutcase, but the history of these incidents seems to be that the cops aren’t going to go in for hours anyway. Why not let the kids make a break for it? I mean, is it just me, or does the lockdown response strike anyone else as a “it won’t actually help, but it makes us look like we did something, so the parents of dead kids won’t sue us into the stone age” response.
I also think lock downs are ineffective. I was a sub and subs don’t get keys. I had to wait for the janitor to come unlock the classrooms to let us in the morning. So during a lock down subs are automatic targets because they cannot lock their classrooms. So sitting ducks basically. So I would be telling kids to either barricade the door or jump out the window and run for it. Because just sitting there waiting for the gunman to open the door seems a stupid thing to do.
So there is that flaw in the system. Secondly in the real case of something like this, I think I would take my chances jumping out the window. Even a second story window. Because in most cases the gunmen are inside and don’t shoot people outside. We even had some classrooms where you could step right outside the window and run for the woods. Seems a better option. Also you could climb out on the roof and that might be a good idea too and hide on the roof.
I think crouching under desks is ineffective. It is easy to shoot a still target. Hard to shoot a running one. Physics. Logic. I mean cops themselves say if someone pulls a gun on you and tells you to get in the car with them you are better off just bolting because you are a moving target and they may not even shoot you and go for someone willing to get in the car quietly without a fight.
Yet, this is the opposite of that. I don’t think running out in the halls is a good idea with gunmen shooting but going out windows seems smart. Or if you happen to be right next to an unlocked exit door going out that way.
It’s simple: take your child out of any school that does things like this. Disenroll them, transfer them. Send them to a school with better policies or homeschool. Tell the school why you are taking your child out of their school. (If you feel that you CAN’T remove your child from the school… think about that for a moment. That school has enough power over you that you can not disenroll your child? Take that power back.)
Schools are paid based on attendance. Once they start loosing a significant amount of money due to these ridiculous policies, they’ll get rid of them. And then you can put your child back into the school, if you so choose.
@SOA there are not lock/unlock mechanisms that can be operated without a key on the INSIDE of the doors? I would think that would be some kind of fire code violation (to not have those).
Seven hours is long enough for a medical emergency to happen. What would they do if a kid went into diabetic shock due to not being able to have lunch? Or get their meds that are in the nurses office, because you know we can’t have them taking their own meds at school – the same ones that they take without problem all summer long.
The two hours in the bathroom was just plain stupid. Here we have had several “lock downs” for things like that and the kids stay in the room and class goes on as normal. Anyone who happened to be in the bathroom would certainly be let back in.
I just told my 13-year-old to IGNORE instructions to stay inside the school if there is some kind of threat INSIDE the school. “Make a break for it. Run. Climb out a window. If someone is inside your school shooting people, which is VERY unlikely to EVER happen, just GET OUT of the school. DO NOT FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.
No there was no way to lock or unlock the door without a key. It does not violate fire code because they just unlock the door and it stays unlocked all day which is normally fine unless there is a lock down and we can’t lock the door.
If there is a fire in the hallway you can’t prevent the door from blowing open.
I really wonder what the logic behind un-lockable doors was, or if it was just cheaper…
This would never have happened in Israel. Here we have a real terrorist threat, and if someone notices an unattended object, it might be a bomb, so people will be instructed to get away from it and the bomb squad would be called, but this will very rarely take more than one hour. And people talking about guns will never raise an alarm; maybe seeing a person who is suspected terrorist (and people go all around Israel with guns, as soldiers and security guards, so even an armed man will rarely arouse suspicion unless this is a VERY suspicious person), but then instead of lockdown there would be a school evacuation, and the police would deal with things quite quickly.
The only equivalent here in Israel is when we get a serious rocket attack and have to hide in a bomb shelter for hours, but almost any big bomb shelter has restrooms.
At one of my high schools we had a similar policy. It wasn’t a lockdown but an evacuation for a bomb threat, similar to a fire drill. Everyone had to go outside to a certain spot but within the fence. No one was allowed back inside until all of the lockers had been searched. Clearly some of the students were entertained by this, because we had a bomb threat almost every day during lunch. It made it critical to get your lunch quickly, then you could take it outside with you and sit and eat it on the grass, picnic style. Maybe whoever was calling in the bomb threats had a class at that time that they were getting out of. All I know is, it just became part of the daily routine.
Someone said something about a gun, or maybe it was, “You want some gum?” either way, the children were kept safe, and that’s the main thing, isn’t it? Keeping the children safe, even if it means they’re trapped in a classroom for seven hours, while they’re forced to pee in bottles.
What fascinates me is, were the pee bottles already on hand in the classroom supply closet, in case of a lockdown that lasted many hours, or were they the children’s own water bottles that were pressed into duty as pee containers? How many pee bottles were there? Was there one for each student, or did they have to be shared? What happened after they were full, who emptied them? Are bottles full of pee some kind of bio-hazard that have to be properly disposed of at a certified pee-bottle-destruction facility, or did some hapless maintenance man have to pour them down the toilet? What if the maintenance man was some kind of freak who was turned on by bottles filled with children’s pee? Wouldn’t that be encouraging him in his depravity? Whose idea was it in the first place that the kids pee in bottles? So many pee-oriented questions and so few answers.
As an afterthought, do you know what was in the basement of my old elementary school? A rifle range! It was set up during WWII for girls to train as sharpshooters in the event of an invasion. High school girls, that is. The little girls just collected tinfoil and planted victory gardens, when not keeping a sharp eye out for German spies. This was in New Jersey, where there actually were German spies, some of whom came ashore from a submarine.
Life sure was exciting for kids in the 1940s. I imagine that somewhere, there are still old ladies who can hit a bull’s eye at thirty yards, thanks to their sharpshoooter training in the school basement.