Lockdown Madness!

Hi hyahytzhae
Readers — The following is so bizarre, all I can say is, “Wow! The following is so bizarre!” Here goes:

Dear Free Range Kids: Here’s a letter from the superintendent that was sent home from school with my kids last night:

Beginning around 11 a.m. today, our entire campus was put under “lockout” due to a break-in at a residential home near our campus. Through the efforts of the Niagara County Sheriff’s department, Lewiston Police and local residents, the suspect was apprehended near Cain Road, in Youngstown, around 12:45 p.m. We applaud the efforts of our law enforcement agencies in keeping our students and entire campus safe.

We would like parents to know that their child’s safety was never in jeopardy. Police presence on campus was nearly constant throughout this period of time and student activities were curtailed significantly. Under lockout conditions, all exterior doors, entrances and windows were locked and secured, and only authorized personnel are allowed to enter or leave the building….

My kids’ school is one of four buildings on a campus-like setting, in a rural area. Anything nearby is at least a quarter to half a mile away. One news report said that the US Customs and Border patrol had their helicopter in the air helping local police with the chase. (We’re on the Canadian border.) They thought the suspect was in the woods behind the schools. There is a football field and stadium’s width between the woods and any of the schools. Did I mention that the police department is located ON our school’s campus?

I called to voice my disapproval with the superintendent and was asked by his secretary, “Don’t you care about our kids’ safety when there are criminals running around?”

When I got home, the kids had their letters, and I asked the 10-year-old what her thoughts were about the events of the day. My Free-Range mom’s heart was just so happy — she thought it was a bunch of bs and that the school was doing a good job of fear-mongering!!!

The suspect was caught a couple of miles away in the OPPOSITE direction from the school. Here’s the original article. Here’s the follow-up. Just wanted to share with you. I’m so proud of my kids for not buying into the hype!  — Gena

Warning to all students: Commence cowering NOW! Repeat: Commence cowering NOW!


58 Responses to Lockdown Madness!

  1. pentamom January 8, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    Okay, if the suspect was considered dangerous enough to send a helicopter after him, I’m not sure locking the doors was such an over-reaction. I grant you that the kids were probably not actually in any danger in the situation, but neither is locking the doors and restricting the school to “authorized personnel” such a drastic action. I guess on this one, I don’t see what’s so bizarre.

  2. Jo January 8, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Being that I work in the administrative part of a school system, if that suspect was in the direction of the school and God forbid was near the school and there was not a lock down then there would have been parents having nervous breakdowns. I am all about lightening up the entire free range aspect of life. But you have to realize that there are situations that call for delicate handling and this sounds like they did an excellent job.

  3. Kay Wyma January 8, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Someone sent me your blog… and I love what you’re doing. I’ve never been a helicopter mom and invited many a stare and whisper as I let my six year old walk home from the park.

    As a mother of 5 staring at seemingly lazy and enabled tweens/teens, I started a blog about a year ago to document our family’s effort to get back to normal… where kids do things for themselves.

    I don’t know if you ever guest blog, but each week I post a blog from someone who either offers wisdom on parenting this trying stage of life or just plain encouragement.

    Sorry to ask in a comment, but I couldn’t find a contact address for you. No worries if not up your alley… just checking.

    Keep on keepin’ on. It’s terrific.
    -Kay Wyma

  4. KLY January 8, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    The schools around here have lock-down drills. Maybe this school also does and the administration just wanted to actually feel like they were not a waste of time? Heh.
    Most of the schools here are basically on “lock-out” status anyways… everyone coming in has to check in at the office, and anyone actually interacting with any child other than their own is required to be approved through a background check. You are then required to wear a sticker in most schools, unless you volunteer enough to have gotten your own name-badge.

    And, unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear of schools all over locking up and going on alert because of some crime in the general area. It can get ridiculous.

    I do think this case qualifies as ridiculous. It was not an armed robbery or anything of the sort. It was a reported intruder in someone’s basement. It must have been a slow day for law enforcement, for things to get escalated like this. I can even understand informing the school if the suspect was seen heading for school grounds or something, but the whole huge reaction is just too typical of the knee-jerk tendency to shoot straight into Extreme Danger Mode. There is no common sense case-by-case assessment anymore, it seems.

    Oh… and regarding lock-down drills, I asked my daughter and her friends what they thought about them, back when they were in first or second grade.
    “Well,” I was told, “We think they might be useful against zombies, and maybe bad pirates. We decided they probably won’t do much good against ninjas, though.”

  5. KLY January 8, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Jo – I know that a lot of times, this sort of thing does have to do with “concerned” parents, and the articles even mention trying to prevent paranoid parents from flocking to the school and trying to pull their children out. It happens, parents hear something on the news and panic, regardless of fact or common sense.

    But the underlying issue is *why* does this happen? Why have we, as a society, reached a point where schools have to worry about parents over-reacting, which leads to them having to preemptively over-react? Why are we at a point where fear is so much a part of how basic procedure is developed? Why do schools and other organizations have to plan ahead for the most unlikely events, so they can avoid any potential lawsuits or liability later, when doing so only perpetuates the feeling of panic and paranoia in the general community?

    In saying it is understandable in the light of how things are, there is a degree of accepting the culture of fear that has led things to being this way. The fact that things like this are seen as reasonable reactions is a symptom of just how much people are willing to buy into a world where paranoia and over-reaction are the norm. The fact that people are starting to get outraged over “standard procedure” in cases like this is a *good* thing. It is a sign that some people, at least, have had enough. If enough people stand up and say so, perhaps we can get back to a point where schools do not feel they *must* make mountains out of molehills and teach our children that the world is a dangerous, scary place that is always just one tiny step away from a Critical Emergency.

  6. Larry Harrison January 8, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    As usual, I’m with Lenore on this one. I know campuses have to be safe, but the mere technicality of helicopters being used means little. I find police, emergency crews etc blare their sirens over relatively petty things. Helicopter police should be for escaped prisoners of the hard-core type, or a serial rapist on the loose, or an attempted murderer being persued–not a mere buglar. U

    You have to wonder sometimes–one-time while living in Tucson, in 2002, we lived in a seedy part of town. They blared our place with helicopter lights over a supposed attempted carjacking. So far ok. Later, though, I was out walking–and saw a dead body. I called the police, I bet it took 15 minutes for anyone to show up, for a murder.

    On top of that, the next day, the report of the murder was on like page B17 of the newspaper. Sometimes you really have to wonder.

    Blackberry Bold 9000

  7. Robin January 8, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    Our schools do lock down drills. We once had the elementary school locked down for 90 minutes because someone shot a turkey in the woods behind the school. Sigh.

    Why couldn’t the school do a modified lockdown? No outdoor gym classes, no publc access but free movement within the school. And we wonder why the kids don’t have time to learn anything.

  8. kherbert January 8, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    I’m with the school on this one, from personal experience. Schools are seen as “safe” by crooks because the cops won’t shoot at us near the kids. As for the idea that since that is were the police station was they won’t go there. The Exxon across the street from my JH got robbed – and the crooks tried to get in the JH to get away from the cops. The police station was NEXT DOOR to the Exxon Station.

    All the doors except the one by the office were locked in the JH because of custody disputes. They had a couple of parents show up with weapons to grab their kids. Also to be blunt a couple of classmates were kidnapped/attempted kidnappings for ransom.

  9. Sarah Key-DeLyria January 8, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    My brother’s middle school (in Houston) was on lockdown one day when I was in high school (pre-2000s) because a there was a murder/suicide in the apartments across the street. It was scary just seeing the SWAT team in their parking lot.

    The thing I bet you’ll appreciate is that not only was there lockdown *AFTER* the suspect shot himself, but they bussed all the kids home. Each kid got dropped off at their home (even if they lived a block away like we did) because cars weren’t allowed on the street. They’d kept the kids there about 2 hours after school usually let out too. We’re talking about a pretty big school too-that’s a lot of bus stops!

  10. KLY January 8, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    kherbert – Your school may have needed security measures. Some do. By saying that because *your* school or situation was what it was, all situations should be treated the same, is painting everything with a brush that has nothing to do with common sense.

    Part of the problem with things today is a lack of common sense in risk assessment. By insisting on operating under the same umbrella of fear in all situations, we are losing the ability to flex our brains and hone *real* risk assessment abilities. Perhaps if more common sense was applied in assessing risk, better attention could be given to those situations where it is actually needed, instead of everything being treated as a worse-case-scenario. I have a friend who teaches high school on the border in AZ; they could use some more effective security. The actual truth, though, is that everything is being given the same blanket procedures born out of liability-thinking, and the ability to see and determine true risk and need is being lost.

    And in the letter, the mother mentions that the police station is *on* the campus. In the article, it is stated that there *was* a police presence there. No matter what your experiences are with the police not responding, in this case the situation was different. That being the case in the area this story happened, the crook was NOT likely to see the school as a “safe place”. That actually doesn’t happen much these days, given how ‘vigilant’ people in schools tend to be.

    Different situations merit different reactions. That’s where exercising our “common sense muscle” needs to come into play.

  11. Donna January 8, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    A daytime burglar is extremely rarely a threat to the safety of anyone. The reason that they break into houses during the day is to best ensure that they don’t come into contact with people. Unless they’ve stolen a gun from the house, I’ve never known one to be armed (another reason to either not own a gun or to keep it locked up at all times). 99 times out of 100 they are simply drug addicts looking for something to pawn for drugs. Let’s use a little common sense and realize that all criminals are not public enemy #1 calling for a full swat intervention and high level security measures.

    That said, I don’t really have a problem with the school locking all the exterior doors and limiting access to authorized people only during such a situation. But why exactly were student activities “curtailed significantly”? I’m guessing that right along the Canadian border in early January that most of these significantly curtailed activities were actually scheduled to take place indoors. Once the doors were locked and nobody could get in, the day should have really been business as usual.

    The note to parents was also completely over the top. It just feeds into the belief that kids are in danger ALL OF THE TIME. It also contributes to the clear lack of common sense and lack of ability to detect a real threat (murderer possibly hiding near campus) and minimal threat (drug addict looking for items to pawn hiding in the woods). I’d be more annoyed about my child’s activities being curtailed significantly for some stupid reason than worried about the danger. I’d also be extremely pissed that my child was stressed about something this stupid. Adults should know that a burglar is not a threat to come onto campus and slaughter children but kids don’t necessarily know that, especially when all the adults are acting like idiots.

  12. Amanda January 8, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I have to go with Jo on this one. As a former administrator, I can tell you that after 9/11 and the school hostage situation in Russia right after, many private schools were tasked with creating lock down sequences and emergency plans for every conceivable situation and those are still in place today. This is precisely because of parents who needed to feel their children were safe and we (administrators) were suddenly charged with keeping them safe from very real and scary threats. In our case, we also had to write policies to keep parents from bum rushing the school every time any emergency happened.

    Shortly after those early 2000’s events, the Atlanta courthouse shootings happened and the suspected shooter was on the run somewhere within a mile of our area. We locked down our school as per policy but we still had parents blowing up the phone and telling the police they “HAD” to get through the barricaded streets to get to their children, even though they had been made aware of our systems and knew we were locked down, even to them.

    Sometimes those polices are put into practice to keep our over-stimulated, fear-hyped folks feeling as safe as possible. Ridiculous as it may seem, it’s an essential CYA move for schools who would be otherwise lambasted for not being as safe as the “could” be and parents will take their good money down the street to the place with the entrance codes and the bullet proof offices.

  13. facie January 8, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I would have to know more about this school to decide if this was over the top. My kid’s school is locked during the school day (you need to be buzzed in after 8 a.m.), and I don’t have a problem with it. If some criminal was thought to be nearby, I would not want my kid outside for recess or gym class. But I fully realize that on any given day a crazed or dangerous person could be near the school (any school), so I am not suggesting kids never be allowed out.

    I used to be a helicopter parent and still have some of those tendencies. Unfortunately, you cannot discount the sue-happy world we live in. In most areas (not everywhere, I know), more than a few parents would have been outraged if security had not been stepped up (such as keeping kids indoors during the situation).

    Now as for scaring the kids unnecessarily, perhaps with a school-wide announcment? This I have a problem with, but would have to think about how that could be handled.

    Lenore, I am very grateful I found your blog last year. It really, truly has helped me be less overprotective. I may not be raising a free range kid, but I am at least letting her spread her wings a little!

  14. Donna January 8, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    “Shortly after those early 2000′s events, the Atlanta courthouse shootings happened and the suspected shooter was on the run somewhere within a mile of our area. We locked down our school as per policy ”

    And herein lies the problem – this country’s complete inability to tell a real threat from a manufactured one. We can no longer use common sense to tell the difference between Brian Nichols’ rampage and a common household burglary that happens thousands of times a day with absolutely no injuries in this country. Of course Lenore would not be pointing out the absurdity of this story if the school was locked down after a rape suspect stole a gun from a deputy, shot up a courtroom killing 3 people, fled the courthouse, killing a federal police officer in the process with his current whereabouts unknown all within a mile of the school. That man was clearly a loose cannon willing to kill anyone in his way to freedom. A residential burglary is a completely different animal and we should have the common sense to know this.

  15. andreas January 8, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    I just had to offer a different point-of-view of the “parent have to check in at the office” thing. We do that at our school for a few reasons, but one is because SOME parents can’t. let.go. They would come into the school and open the classroom doors if we didn’t monitor access. We really want children to grow into independence and really try to discourage the helicoptering.

  16. KLY January 8, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    @Amanda –
    “Sometimes those polices are put into practice to keep our over-stimulated, fear-hyped folks feeling as safe as possible. Ridiculous as it may seem, it’s an essential CYA move for schools who would be otherwise lambasted for not being as safe as the “could” be and parents will take their good money down the street to the place with the entrance codes and the bullet proof offices.”

    And if nobody speaks up when they think things are over-the-top, then it will only continue to get worse. Being outraged and saying “we need to use common sense and react with less paranoia” means that schools will not have to keep stepping up their level of CYA policy.

    @facie –
    “Unfortunately, you cannot discount the sue-happy world we live in.”

    No, you cannot discount it. But you can be outraged by it, and you can fight against the mindset that has created it. Otherwise… how far will it go?

    @Donna – exactly.

  17. Lola January 8, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Fortunately, I really can’t relate at all on this topic… However violent Madrid is turning, this whole affair of criminals brandishing fire weapons, chased by police ready to shoot at them is just plain Hollywood where I live.
    And mind you, we’ve been having terrorists here for about three decades (yeah, with bombs and execution-style murders and everything). Never heard of a school closing down for that, only fake bomb threats were quite common during exam week. We just evacuated (about 100m away from the building, as if that was safe!!), let the police search for a while, and came back in to finish our papers.

  18. Cheryl W January 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Hmm, I wonder if they read the Santa Cruz paper a couple of weeks ago. An admittedly dangerous criminal claimed medical problems so he was taken to the hospital, in handcuffs, and escorted by an officer. At some point the handcuffs needed to be removed to examine him (shoulder injury I think) and he threw a couple of punches and ended up getting the officer’s gun. (The officer reached for the tazer as they were in a hospital.) The criminal ran out of the hospital and down the road and into a daycare where he held the gun to the head of a provider who was caring for 6 month olds. She gave him keys to her car, and he left and was apprehended shortly after.

    No, this doesn’t happen all the time. Everyone admitted that things happened so fast that that the police hardly had time to be called.

  19. Larry Harrison January 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Donna, in my view, is exactly right here. To me, the problem is that, since 9-11-2001, people use that as an excuse for all sorts of CYA paranoia. The whole “the world has changed, we can’t act-think the same as before” mentality has gone too far. To me, I’m a “9-10”-er–that is, I advocate reasonable precautions, but not a whole “since 9-11 we can’t be too careful” mentality. To me, we should be being reasonable and figuring that, for most things, the way we used to do things prior to 9-11-2011 was, for the most part, enough.

    Yes, you can be too careful, 9-11 notwithstanding. As Donna said, use some common sense, as opposed to immediately assuming a “you can’t be too careful” stance.


  20. Kerry Johnson January 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I guess I don’t consider this a “free range” topic. The school was taking a precaution. No harm no foul.

  21. Sarah January 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I don’t see what is so bizarre about this. If someone who posed a potential threat were loose and no one knew exactly where he/she was I think it is better to err on the side of caution.
    I taught in an inner-city school for a few years and we went into lock down a few times. Most of the time it was in regards to a shooting, stabbing, etc in the surrounding areas with a suspect on the loose but one of the lockdowns occurred because a former student brought a gun on campus and opened fire in the parking lot trying to make his way further onto the campus. He clearly did a lot less damage with students locked in a classroom instead of wandering the campus.

  22. bequi January 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    I don’t see why this is a big deal. The police told them to lock the doors, so they did. It says in the second article that the kids could still move around in the school, just not go outside. In the first article, they didn’t specify if the guy was armed. So it looks like this happened:
    Cops call school: “there’s been an attempted robbery near the school. We think the guy is in the woods. Lock the doors.”
    School says: “sounds reasonable. Let’s lock the outside doors, but otherwise continue as usual. We won’t bother telling the parents til after the fact, because nothing is really going to happen.” (Whether the guy is armed or not, I wouldn’t want him running into the school. And it doesn’t matter where they found him, the cops thought he was basically on campus when they said to lock the doors.)
    Cops catch the guy, school unlocks the doors, and then sends a note home with the kids so the parents will know exactly what happened without getting it 2nd hand from kids who tend to exaggerate.

    It all seems reasonable to me.

    We had lockdown at my junior high once (15 years ago), because of a robbery involving a knife. Same thing, we went about business as usual, they just locked the outside doors so the guy couldn’t get in if that’s what he decided to try. It’s just not a big deal.

  23. KLY January 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    It is a free-range topic because it addresses the culture of fear and paranoia we live in.

    This was not an inner-city situation. It was an intruder call in a residential area “close” to a school.

    Nowhere does it say the police told them to lock the doors. The police simply notified them something that happened in the area, and even in the article it says something about how “things just escalated”, though the man was unarmed and there was never any real threat.

    The issue is that people tend to keep thinking things like this, and a progressively more absurd level of knee-jerk reactionary thinking, are “reasonable”, regardless of the situation.

    If the original author of this letter – a mother who lives in this community, knows the situation and has children in the school – thinks this was over-the-top, why is it reasonable for people NOT in the same situation to second-guess her knowledge of the area, etc. and say “well, it is okay because in some dangerous areas I have known, this might have made sense”?

    And, in the meantime, more children are being taught that it is perfectly normal to have to go into Alert/Lockdown mode at the slightest sign of anything even slightly suspicious, because it is a “reasonable” precaution in a world that is so clearly scary and dangerous. Except, you know, where it is actually less dangerous today than it once was… but that gets left out of the lesson.

  24. anonymousmagic January 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    Was the burglar armed? Was there any reason to assume he was close to the school? In the woods behind the school doesn’t count. Kids can still play outside and stay away from the woods.

  25. Mary January 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    I live in an inner suburb of Washington, D.C. If our local elementary school were put on lockdown every time there was a daytime burglary in the neighborhood, it would be locked down at least once a week.

  26. Sky January 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    “I live in an inner suburb of Washington, D.C. If our local elementary school were put on lockdown every time there was a daytime burglary in the neighborhood, it would be locked down at least once a week.”

    So do I, but, then again, most of the schools are already on lock-down already, aren’t they? You have to buzz at the front door to get in to the building, and you can’t go anywhere without an authorized visitor’s pass.

  27. Babs January 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    What, exactly, should qualify as a justification for “lockidown”? And should schools feel the need to do frequent (as in monthly) lockdown drills, as is the case with our school? (I was a bit flabbergasted, to say the least, when I got the memo from our town’s superintendent on this.) I can understand having a few drills a year, but the likelihood of students being placed in a potentially dangerous situation where a lockdown is needed seems to be less than that of the school having a fire.

    Yet, even with drills, how many people — child or adult — can handle a crisis without resorting to panic? Just some food for thought…

  28. bequirox January 8, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    KLY, the first article says, “We were informed by authorities to lock down all of our buildings.”

    I’d say from the viewpoint of the superintendent, with his only knowledge being the police telling him, “There’s been a robbery, lock the schools,” He responded in a way as laid back as possible. Like I said, he didn’t start notifying all the parents immediately, he didn’t restrict the kids to their classrooms, all he did was restrict anyone from entering the school. Why is that bad?

    Sure, in retrospect the guy was unarmed and found somewhere else. But at the time of the lockout they didn’t know that.

  29. Claudia Conway January 8, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    All this lockdown talk makes this another time I feel glad to be in country where people can’t generally carry guns!

    Well done to the daughter for seeing through the BS here – it is so important, and so much safer, to teach our kids when there is a reason to fear and when there isn’t, rather than to teach them to fear *everything*.

  30. pentamom January 8, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    People are assuming that the school officials knew, and were in a position to judge, what kind of threat the suspect posed. I’m not saying they should lockdown on a hair trigger, but if the police put out a bulletin that there’s a potentially dangerous suspect being pursued in the area, I don’t think we want school administrators armchair quarterbacking and deciding whether the suspect is a “real threat” or not. And the point that the guy was caught a mile away in the other direction is totally extraneous — that’s hindsight, and you don’t know the guy’s a mile away in the other direction *until* he’s caught.

    If the school officials knew it was a simple burglary and there was no indication that the suspect was armed and/or dangerous, then a lockdown was probably excessive (although again, while perhaps unnecessary, LOCKING DOORS is not that big a deal. It’s not like they had the kids hiding under desks or confined to their classrooms.)

  31. Donna January 9, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    “he didn’t restrict the kids to their classrooms, all he did was restrict anyone from entering the school.”

    I think that he did a whole lot more than this. The memo sent to the parents stated that “students activities were curtailed significantly.” That indicates a whole hell of a lot more than simply locking the doors to me.

    Does it really matter who overreacted? Whether it was the school administration or the police? It’s actually worse that police told them to lock down the school since police officers knew that it was a residential burglary and should have known that the suspect posed no threat to the kids.

    Nobody is saying that schools should never be locked down. If there is a serious violent crime nearby and the perpetrator is a large, by all means, lock down the school. However, daytime residential burglaries are not violent crimes. I can’t think of a single one that escalated into holding school kids hostage. The idea that all criminals are equal and violent is simply false. There’s a pecking order even amongst criminals, hence the reason that people who committed crimes against children and elderly are housed in somewhat protected custody in prison. And police officers should know this.

    We as a population have somehow come to the conclusion that if we’re vigilant enough nothing bad is ever going to happen again. That is simply not true. No matter how vigilant we are, there will likely be another 9/11, another Oklahoma City, another Columbine, another Amish school murder, another McDonald’s massacre. You can’t anticipate crazy. And, as non-crazy people, we can’t possibly come up with all the ways that someone hell-bent on causing destruction can come up with to do that destruction. Locking down schools every time a mundane, routine nonviolent crime occurs is not going to stop a school massacre because that person is not going to stop and rob a house first.

  32. Evan January 9, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    Similar thing happened at my son’s school a few weeks ago. As I heard the story, prisoner being moved to a new facility had managed to overpower his guard and get hold of a gun, ran a few blocks, broke into a house and took a couple of old women hostage–it was definitely very dramatic, and we had police and TV helicopters buzzing the neighborhood for hours.

    But no one could explain why they locked all the doors in my son’s school, locked the gates and posted guards so no one could get in to pick up their kids until half an hour after school ended, and the kids in my son’s classroom had to use a bucket because no one was allowed to leave to go to the bathroom… when the prisoner was inside a house surrounded by cops nearly a mile away and on the other side of a busy freeway.

  33. KLY January 9, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    Donna, you basically took the words right out of my mouth… er… fingers.

    “Perspective” seems to be something of a lost art.

    Now… useless drills in schools are nothing new. I am old enough to remember – along with fire, tornado and hurricane drills (fairly useful… except a hurricane was unlikely to sneak up on us, as schools closed as soon as one was tracked for our area of the coast -our version of “snow days”) – Cold War “duck and cover” drills. Because, you know, that pressed-wood desk was totally going to save us if someone dropped the bomb.

    But even growing up with that, and with the fact that I was actually in school in a time and area where drug trafficking was at a high-point and crime rates were WAY higher than they are now, I did not grow up with this culture of fear. Now, all schools are treated like potential war-zones, as are a lot of communities, and there is attention paid to what the true risk actually is.

    A lot of this started with Columbine.
    Thing is, that was not – by far – the first incident of school shooting or school hostage situations. It was the first one to happen in the Information/Media Overload Era (aka – the Internet Age). It was not the last one, either. In spite of lock-downs and prison-like policies, bad things still occasionally happen.

    But the knee-jerk reactions, over-the-top policies and complete lack of common sense assessment are not going to help. They are just there to give an already paranoid populace a sense of false security while VALIDATING the idea that you should constantly live in fear of some unlikely-scenario happening.

    So many people are saying it is reasonable or “no big deal”, and THAT is a big deal. It says that we’re becoming complacent about the escalating fear-mongering going on. If you say “better safe than sorry” about one thing, without critically looking at whether or not common sense and practical risk assessment were used, you’re simply setting things up for it to be taken to the next level “because you never know.”

    @Evan – I’m not surprised no one could explain it. Paranoia and lack of common sense are hard to discuss rationally. Heh.

  34. Larry Harrison January 9, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    I’ve said it a thousand times, probably too many, but to the people who are so hell-bent on thinking that, since Columbine, “you can’t be too careful” (sort of what KLY alluded to), I beg every such person–and even those who understand the whole “media overload” deal and for whom this would be tantamount to “preaching to choir” still, even those–I beseech to Wikipedia this name, Andrew Kehoe. (I even made it a link, it opens in a new tab-window, to make it easier.)

    You will read about the worst ever school mass murder in history, the WORST EVER, worse than Columbine, worse than VA Tech-and it happened in 1927. It totally blows to bits–pardon the pun (if you’ll read the article you’ll know what it’s an awful pun)–the notion that all the bad school shootings are a recent thing that requires all of these lockdowns because “back in the old days you didn’t have to worry about such things.”


  35. Larry Harrison January 9, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    PS–pardon the typos, (“what” vs “why” it’s an awful pun, preaching to [the] choir, etc)


  36. Highwayman January 9, 2011 at 3:39 am #

    Methinks the “lockout” is actually for the cops so no pupil would be accidentally shot. Considering the number of police agencies pursuing just one lone burglary suspect, the probability of an innocent bystander accidentally shot by the authorities had ratcheted up exponentially. That’s without including school-folk moving in and out of their school buildings.

  37. Tuppence January 9, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    I haven’t been living in the US for the last 13 years, so this whole lock-down madness is new to me. Just using that word is bizarre, as it connotes things going wrong in a maximum security prison or, even, a nuclear power plant. Using such a weighted term says so much about America’s desire to ratchet up the hysteria-factor, I think.

    I’m curious if this lock-down business in schools is specific to the US, or if the other “anglo-nations” (UK, Oz, New Zealand) are following suit on this one, too. (I live in Germany, doesn’t happen here.)

    Can any Free-Range friends living in these places enlighten me?

  38. Beth January 9, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    Working as I do with law enforcement, I’m kind of amazed at a police department that has the resources to put a helicopter in the air for a lone unarmed residential burglary suspect, who was probably just as surprised as the homeowner when he was discovered.

    I won’t address the absurdity of the lockdown as others above me have done it so well.

  39. Marty January 9, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    around here, ‘lockdown drills’ are an excuse to search lockers and run police dogs through the halls while the students are locked down. it’s funny how they had 2 or 3 kids busted for marijuana last fall when the dope was discovered during the ‘safety’ drill.

    the security measures almost always seem extreme to me, but I’m not the one having to deal with mommenstein and dadzilla…

  40. B.S.H. January 9, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    My sons preschool was on lock-down when some bank robbers robbed a bank and fled directly towards the school. All the kids were fine and the robbers were never caught. You would have thought it was WWIII when it was pick up time. There were moms in hysterics wondering why the school didnt call every single parent and have them pick up their kids immediately! The school did send out an email when it happened and the police said it was safer for the kids in the school then with 150 parents driving to the closed area to pick up their kids WHILE THE POLICE WERE LOOKING FOR THE ROBBERS!!!

  41. Matt January 9, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    You want to know why schools in general are in such bad shape? Things like “zero tolerance” and “lockdowns”, terms and techniques that have been appropriated from the PRISON system. The attitude towards schooling, nay, childhood in general is one of digging a moat and putting up barbed wire. It’s so hard to tell whether you’re locking the bad guys out or the good guys in, eh?

  42. Matt January 9, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    How does the lockout differ from normal operations? For example many high schools in my area do not have unlocked doors other than the main entrance during the day. If the other doors are normally locked than the letters sound like they are calling undue attention to the incident, not necessarily that the precautions are too strong. Why do the parents/students need to know this? Are they just trying to answer questions before they hear complaints that a helo was chasing a fugitive near the school and they did nothing.

  43. Gena January 9, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Thank you for all the comments on the situation at my kids’ school. It is in a rural area, nothing much happens, and nothing is really close. The border patrol helicopter is in the area because we’re so close to Canada. But using it to chase down a burglar seems like a waste of OUR money to me.

    The school is normally on a lock-out type situation… you can’t get into the buildings without being buzzed in. The windows may not normally be locked, but the doors are. There are cameras all over the place.

    Lewiston-Porter ( http://www.lew-port.com ) tends to over-do knee-jerk reactions, this is just one example. But then of course, people tend to believe all the hype today about how dangerous everything is. One news station’s website reported that ‘there haven’t been any injuries yet’. There was no need for that comment from the media, but there it was.

    Before a recent holiday band concert, the principal had to announce where the exits were as well as the procedure for leaving the building in csae of an emergency!

  44. buffy January 9, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    For all those saying “what’s the big deal if the school’s doors are locked; it’s always that way at my kids’ school”……

    The email to parents said “Police presence on campus was nearly constant throughout this period of time and student activities were curtailed significantly.” This is significantly (ha ha) different than keeping all outer doors locked.

  45. jill January 9, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    We had our private school go on lockdown b/c another private school notified them of an incident 3 miles away! I was shocked that a phone call from another school would warrant this behavior. When I questioned why they did it without being asked by the police, I received a blank stare. I asked how long they were “locked down” and it was well over an hour. The school “official” I spoke with said “We kept the kids safe by keeping them in.” I said, there wasn’t any real danger (3 small building 100 people total an extra person on campus sticks out like a sore thumb) and the kids need to be outside and play. I just heard crickets after that. The world is a generally safe place it is better to develop awareness for your environment and your instincts instead of relying on “authorities” to tell you what to do. How will this next generation become leaders?

  46. Rob O. January 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    The schools are just following the example set by TSA – fear equals control – and it IS all a bunch of BS!

    And it is for these overhyped safety concerns that our school district is adding phones to each and every classroom. Of course, that does kinda negate the ridiculous justification that many parents use for giving their kids cell phones… But will we see a reduction in that or an outright ban of cell phones on campus? Not likely.

  47. Renee Aste January 10, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    The bank next to my kids’ school actually has been robbed with the individual armed and dangerous twice. Yes, there was locked down. Lock down consists and not having outside recess and staying away from the windows. Otherwise, it’s normal and classes go on.

  48. North of 49 January 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    I remember when they brought security guards into my high school when I was in grade 11. The school went into “early dismissal” three times because of bomb threats in my last two years.

    If you want to keep the kids safe, send them home early, don’t keep them at ground zero!

  49. Lockdowns are BS January 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    We had a county wide lockdown of all schools after it was rumored that a student had skipped classes at once school and was planning to visit friends at a different one. Apparently he had texted his plans about this to someone, who informed the teacher, who called the principal in, who called the police who decided that you can never be to careful since the youth might have a gun or bomb, even though the text mentioned nothing about that and the student had no history of insanity, and so every classroom was locked down, with students ushered into safe rooms with steel doors and no windows and made to lie on the floor for hours waiting for Armageddon.

    Like the mother in the above story, I was proud when my son also said he recognized it was “BS”, even though at the time he was only in kindergarten.

    The student was later found out by the bleachers of the other school where he was arrested, handcuffed, and taken into custody for truancy since there was no gun or bomb.

    Locals were in a tizzy during this, practically ecstatic with joy over the possibility there could be a dramatic shooting or bombing that could bring attention and drama and excitement to their boring lives. Not a single person in town shared my feelings that it was a giant waste of resources and was dangerous because it shows how bad mass hysteria can get.

  50. Lockdowns are BS January 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    “Nobody is saying that schools should never be locked down.”

    OK, I’ll say it then. Schools should never be “locked down”. Strike that word, it’s associations, the practice, the very concept from what is known. It’s not like anyone in the rest of the world does this practice. They don’t. So don’t claim it is necessary because it is sometimes needed. It’s not. Not ever.

  51. Gena January 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    My kids (in the 3rd – 5th grader building) were not told anything about what was going on until after it was over. Apparently, the middle school kids were told something was going on and they were actually on lock-DOWN… hiding, staying away from the windows, because, as kids imaginations get the better of them, someone ‘saw’ someone trying ot pick the lock of the school. Way to get the kids paranoid.

    The burglar started off north of the school and ended up north of the school, NEVER heading towards the school.

    I agree with the comments mentioning the similarities between school security and the TSA and over hyped media coverage. I never knew our superintendent was such a media hound… Lew-Port really made the news because he was so concerned about the kids’ safety. I AM curious why, then in the winter when we have below zero wind chills, blowing snow and all the other schools in the county are closed, why it is ‘safe’ for the kids to wait for the buses and go to school, only to leave after 2 hours. Oh, that’s right, because state money trumps student safety in that case!

  52. Library Diva January 10, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    Wow, my area is famous! When was the last time Lew-Port got national attention like this? I agree that the use of the chopper was over the top. Isn’t that the same chopper that’s gotten a lot of criticism lately for playing a role in every minor incident, including cat rescue from trees? Or does that one belong to the sherriff’s dept.?

    I heard this story too and thought it was a bit over the top. Recently, I had to go to an elementary school not far from the Lew-Port district, though in a less rural area. I was confronted with a huge sign that said that I could be *arrested* if I didn’t have some sort of official business at the school. I had to get buzzed in, report to the main office, state my business and get a pass. I felt like I was visiting a prison.

    In a different part of New York, I had to wait for a student escort to a classroom. I was in the company of a retired teacher, meeting with a current teacher at the school. This was a very rural part of New York. That particular policy made no sense to me. If they really feel we presented some sort of danger, they were putting the life of that 16-year-old girl at risk by leaving her alone with us.

  53. Uly January 11, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    Not a single person in town shared my feelings that it was a giant waste of resources and was dangerous because it shows how bad mass hysteria can get.

    You ever read the YA book “After”?

  54. EricS January 11, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Ridonkulous! A waste of tax payers money, and resources that could have been put to better use. Granted a crime is a crime, but one would think a scared thief is far less threatening than let’s say…a murder, or an armed robber, or and escaped mental patient with a history of violence.

    Why do people insist it’s for the safety and well being of the children? When in reality, this type of fear mongering can cause serious psychological issues in young children that can affect their function as adults. Case and point, the adults now how insist on these Lockdowns. They live in constant fear of the world around us. THAT is unhealthy for adults and children alike.

  55. JoAnn January 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    I am thinking really hard on how to explain what thoughts go through a caretakers head while being responsible for other people’s children. Say at a given school there are about 200 elementary students out at recess, that means about 600 parents being that half of them most likely have divorced parents that have remarried or boy/girlfriends. Of those 500 of them still have their parents living (grandparents to those elementary students) that would be about 1000 additional people, (just hang on I am getting to my point) add another 200 for sibilings to these children, add another 250 for aunts and uncles, 300 for cousins, we are now up to 2,550 for those 200 elementary children that are outside for recess that day because the administration deceided to go ahead and let because the threat did not seem credidble or that administration overreacts and parents are just getting out of control we need to stop overreacting to every little threat. I myself have had to personally watch those many children by myself day in and out with woods around 75% of the playground, refree the pety fighting, take care of the injuries, administer discipline and there have been a few moments of sending the children in because of questionable situations developing. I am sure where ever your children go to school at the recess people or administration would love to have you help out anyway you can.

    KLY: Nowhere does it say the police told them to lock the doors. The police simply notified them something that happened in the area, and even in the article it says something about how “things just escalated”, though the man was unarmed and there was never any real threat.

  56. KLY January 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    @JoAnn – I know what goes through care-takers’ minds. I have several friends who are teachers, and I have been responsible for a lot of kids myself. I am one of the “active volunteer” type parents who do come and help with activities in the school.

    The thing is… the fact that kids are connected to families is not new. The idea that this means you have to constantly be aware of every possible, even unlikely, scenario *is*. Worrying about all that while watching children is pretty much a clear definition of paranoia; though I believe it not to be the fault of teachers and caretakers, but a dysfunction of our society in general. The focus should be on common sense safety… not on all the ramifications of any chance of anything possibly happening, ever.

  57. JoAnn January 13, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    @KLY- I understand the paranoia aspect we as a society have become that way. What I do with my own children is vastly different than what I do when I am in a school environment due to the fact that you are dealing with many different personal beliefs along with the administration of a school.

    So what are your opinions on what defines a lock down situation?


  1. Tweets that mention Lockdown Madness! « FreeRangeKids -- Topsy.com - January 8, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by OKLAHOMA , J. Michael Hall. J. Michael Hall said: @FreeRangeKids. Bizarre! instead of lock down, do a "let out"-release kids. Even criminals are afraid of pre-K kids! http://ht.ly/3AlIa […]