School Goes Into Lockdown — Complete with Kids Crying in Closet — Over Umbrella

Hi Folks — I know everyone’s obviously tense at the moment, but here’s a  classic overreaction: When some boys were shooting a video of themselves acting out the body’s immune system using an umbrella, they were mistaken for psychopaths and the school went into lockdown. Kids hid and cried, parents careened to the school (and, thank God, didn’t run anyone over). Here’s the story.  – L.


47 Responses to School Goes Into Lockdown — Complete with Kids Crying in Closet — Over Umbrella

  1. CLamb December 17, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    My first thought was of Batman’s adversary The Penguin. Anyone else? Too many false alarms can exacerbate the real thing. It brings up everyone’s level of anxiety at first but then it is no longer taken seriously. Remember the boy who cried wolf. I’d love to see the video from that security system so I could judge for myself whether or not the umbrella looked like a rifle.

  2. Piper December 17, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    I wonder if their immune system video included a section about allergies: when the immune system overreacts to a nonexistent threat, and does more harm than good. The irony would be delicious.

  3. Warren December 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    They have security officers manning video monitors? Really?

    Then to have so called trained officer mistake an umbrella for a rifle?

    Did you see the size and age of some of the kids being whisked away by their parents?

    There is nothing even close to right in this story. This school, it’s guidelines, administrators are all wrong on so many levels.

  4. Emily December 17, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    This is completely nuts. Also, high school students are NOT “children.”

  5. Joel December 17, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    An umbrella mistaken for a rifle, by a security guard . Whoever it was didn’t create much security, in fact endangered quite a few.

  6. Tara December 18, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    In Texas, where I used to teach prior to moving, schools did not release information about ongoing security lockdowns until AFTER the fact. Mostly for the reasons shown here. If police are patrolling halls, searching for someone with a weapon, they’ll likely shoot at a parent who comes busting in looking for their child. Parents rushing to the school can congest roads that need to be kept clear for first responders. Also, if schools release info that a lockdown is going on, that can eliminate any secrecy or confidentiality that a school or the first responders might have that can work to their advantage.

  7. Jynet December 18, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    I hate the idea of lock downs, I found them ridiculous when my daughter was in school, and I don’t like them any better today. Yes, teach the teachers what to do, but to terrify children? No.

    That said… I agree with Tara. Broadcasting that the school is in lock down before it has ended increases the risk for students, teachers, parents AND first responders. How utterly ridiculous to compound an over reaction this way.

  8. Nicole December 18, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    This is not really related to the video above, but I thought it would be relevant to this website :

  9. Amanda December 18, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    It would be impossible to keep a lockdown private with every kid having a cellphone

  10. Other Paul December 18, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    Tara and Jynet might want to take into account that, these days, school authorities are in no position to restrict the flow of information concerning their lockdowns. The news will get out pretty much instantly despite them. Even if the lockdown procedure included instructions to staff and students not to text, phone, tweet, or otherwise blab out into the wild, chances are that there’ll be some on site who think they know better or who aren’t subject to the school authorities. Same applies at the police end.

    They’re gonna have to think of something else.

  11. Katie December 18, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    I hope that principal feels foolish! The students are due a *huge* apology.

  12. Donald December 18, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    I love this story. It fits so well with the previous one. Human nature WANTS to feel the pain to share the burden. However by doing so, they get caught up in the fear hysteria. The fear hysteria is one of the reasons why we have an increase of sickos.

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    I can’t change the increase in school shootings by wallowing in the fear hysteria. However I can become a peaceful person. Just like one candle can light many, a peaceful person will affect others.

    I’m very saddened and sick of the whole mess. However, I don’t want to read about it or watch it on TV because I don’t want to become part of the problem.

    If I wallow in fear and anger hysteria by watching the news, I have a much harder time being peaceful.

  13. Lollipoplover December 18, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    The Deputy police chief said in the newspaper today that the student showed “poor timing” in carrying an umbrella to school.

    It was raining yesterday. My kids all had umbrellas. This (so I thought) is good planning, just like wearing a winter jacket is wise when it’s cold outside. Don’t blame the teenager on this one.

  14. Buffy December 18, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Note to self: Do not send kids to school with an umbrella, even if it’s raining, when there has recently been a school shooting.

  15. Beth December 18, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    What I don’t understand about this story is…weren’t there other kids in the hallway at the time, while this umbrella was being carried around? If so, I’m assuming they were acting normally, and not freaking out because a classmate had a rifle casually slung over this shoulder. Seems to me this should have been a clue to the “security” guards that nothing was out of the ordinary.

  16. Emily December 18, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    I hope the boys who were making the video didn’t get punished for opening an umbrella in the hallway–they didn’t do anything wrong; the school officials were just being hysterical. Also, it made my brain hurt to see practically-grown, intelligent, articulate teenagers saying how “terrified” they were over the (non) incident.

  17. Amanda Matthews December 18, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    By what stretch of the imagination are these “children”?

    Why is every single one of the parents in the video overweight?

  18. Rob December 18, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    My first reaction to the video was to wonder why this was the first day back at school since the Sandy Hook incident, at a school located approximately 165 miles from where it took place. Then I realized that this happened on Monday and Sandy Hook happened on Friday.

    My second thought was, good Lord, I have been so constantly inundated with news regarding the shooting over the past three days that I actually thought it had been a week since the incident!

    And we wonder why people live in a constant state of fear.

    One of our local high schools (Texas) went into lockdown until after lunch yesterday, during finals, because there were reports of a teenager wearing a hoodie with the hood up, walking the halls and asking students “creepy” questions like “When does class start?” Weird? Yes. Cause for investigation by high school personnel? Maybe. Lockdown worthy? Probably not. I mean, who expects to see a teenager roaming the halls at a high school?

  19. BL December 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Didn’t we already ban all assault umbrellas? I’m so confused …

  20. David December 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    A man with an umbrella worn across his back in Ridgefield CT caused my son’s elementary school in NY (a 25 minute drive away) to go into lockdown mode! Part of the problem here is that if they didn’t, there would be some parents who asked why not?

  21. Neil M December 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    This is a classic example of situations in which authorities have every incentive to overreact. If that principle had failed to call for a lock-down and there HAD been a gun, he would have faced dismissal and possible civil or criminal penalties. However, since there are no negative consequences for prematurely calling for a lock-down…well, it’s clear what the preferred course of action will be. It’s simply safer to assume that every situation is the worst possible situation and react accordingly, instead of applying judgment and perspective. Argh.

  22. Beth December 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    This is my school district. A folded umbrella, thrust in a menacing way, can look, to a grainy security camera, like something more.

    It makes for a good joke here. It scared parents and kids, needlessly.

    I am a fan of free range parenting and the philosophy of not reacting to the fear the media pushes.

    However, if a person in charge, makes a decision to check things out, rather than wait and see, I’m going to support them. Our police station is literally across the street from the school. In minutes it was determined what really happened.

    The whole encounter was then put to rest. Quickly.

    It’s so easy, in hindsight, to judge and tell people they were wrong. The people in charge thought there was a problem and did their best to get it in control. They were wrong. Simple as that.

    Everyone is safe. Some people probably feel a little silly. But it was simply a mistake and we shouldn’t be so harsh on each other for mistakes.

  23. Jim Collins December 18, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    When I was in High School (1981-1982), during this time of year, you could count on over half of the cars on campus having either a rifle or shotgun in them. We were dismissed at 2:30 PM and there was still a couple of hours of daylight left so that we could get in some hunting. Funny, no one was ever shot while this was going on.

  24. Warren December 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Okay people, why are we still okay with the idea of lockdowns, to begin with? This is what they do in prisons.

    All lockdowns do is create fear. In the event of a school shooting, they will just keep the shooter’s victims in localized areas, in groups of 30. Real safe.

  25. Beth December 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    @Beth (the other one), so in that grainy video, were kids screaming and yelling and running away from the umbrella? Or were they acting as they normally would in the hallway at school? To me, the reactions of those around the alleged weapon would give a clue, grainy or not, as to what the item wasn’t.

  26. Matt in GA December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    This incident is almost as ridiculous as my favorite stupid school overreaction of all time: the middle school that went on lockdown because of a very large burrito. Yes, a burrito.

  27. Lollipoplover December 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Where is the National Umbrella Association to defend iour Constitutional right to bear umbrellas?

  28. Sarah December 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Matt in GA- That burrito story is hillarious.

  29. Havva December 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Stories like these make me so grateful for my highschool experience. We had an incident with a pipe bomb while I was there. Just off campus, two students seriously injured. They were in surgery for 6 and 8hrs. This occurred just after the end of lunch warning bell. Some students reported hearing a pop and there were rumors of a bomb. As the principle came on to announce that “the rumors you may have heard are false, nothing has happened,” we all heard the wail of approaching sirens. But a sense of normal and calm were so well restored that when I saw walked past a pair of county SUVs parked by the school on my way home, I thought little of it. I went home, did my usual things and carpooled to ballet. I didn’t find out the rumors of a bomb were true until I got home to find my parents anxiously waiting for me. And asking if I was okay.

    The vice principal stayed with the students in the hospital until they got out of surgery, and arrived late to his daughter’s baby naming that evening. There he gave me the basics of what happened. The bombers/victims told me the rest some months later. The only penalty they incurred was being forced to join the color guard.

    I guess I tell this to say that procedural responses are a pale shadow of getting out there to find the facts, and administrators doing their best to keep a lid on panic.

    FYI, the Bath School bombing story is getting picked up.

  30. Brooke December 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    It took them 30 minutes to identify AN UMBRELLA? Kids were terrified in closets for 30 minutes while they deduced that a rifle was actually an umbrella?

  31. suzyq December 19, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    “Their first day back after the massacre” – as if these kids were in a neighboring town or something. Why do we live in fear? Because we feed fear with foolishness. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be cautious, aware, etc. – but are you kidding me?

  32. Stacey December 19, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Brilliant, almost immediatly after a school shooting, scare a bunch of kids and parents senseless with a complete non-threat. Right when it’s fresh in everyone’s minds and we’re all therefore more prone to fear of it.

  33. Reality much? December 19, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    I am sorry to interrupt the daily meeting of the committee of the “I am so much smarter than the rest of the world”, I’ll be only a minute and then you all can get back to your smug echo chamber.

    To the multitudes of “Beths”, “Brookes” and her ilk whom have so quickly diagnosed the situation and came to “common sense” solutions and criticisms I thank you for so aptly illustrating the definition of IRONY. Your “conclusions” on how rashly and foolishly the administration and police overreacted is laughable to anyone here at the high school that has the actual details and facts about the situation. It doesn’t matter to the “vast” readership of Ms. Skenazy that the people involved include decorated veterans, retired Philadelphia detectives and other professionals who have training and expertise far beyond that of the esteemed group of posters seen here. There are so many foolish suppositions made so casually with bumptious certitude. Goodness if only all of you posters could be running schools, businesses and hell everything most of our troubles would be over.

    I understand Ms. Skenazy has a website to sell; a schtick to perpetrate and mugs, t-shirts and books to hawk. It does undercut any validity she might have in her “free range philosophy” (which I do think has a core of truth and sincerity to it) when she uses a superficial brush to paint with. Anyone here in the school who has seen the video (parents, administrators and teachers) are in unanimous agreement that to NOT take immediate serious actions would have been the more irresponsible action. “Classic overreaction” Ms. Skenazy, I agree, but not about the actions of the school, but rather you and your band of followers. Now buy the book at the bottom of the page.

  34. Neil M December 19, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Hmm…I thought sunlight turned trolls to stone?

  35. Reality much? December 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Right Neil M – anyone who agrees with the authors view that the actions at this High School were “overreactions” and evidence of over protecting kids has a free hand to spout off any nonesensical thing they want. But to have an opinion, an informed opinion because it happened at my high school, contrary to the author and minions of followers makes me a troll. Whatever Neil. Couldn’t be bothered with facing the fact that your 5 second near jerk reaction might be wrong.

  36. Tamara December 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Reality much? While I understand your indignation, how does your self serving rant differ from anyone else’s?

  37. Havva December 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    @Reality much?
    Please know that I defended the value of locking doors on another thread and no one jumped on me. The people here are not beyond reason. But it is really hard to hear your point of view when people ask for information and you bring insults, rather than the information people have asked. Information you claim to have. When you hid info people have trouble trusting, okay.

    I know you are shaken, and want to defend your school, and those is your primary reaction right now. But do you really want to go through that on a regular basis? I have a friend, who, when everyone is upset asks but thinks it the status quo is good anyway. “Is this the best we can do?” I’m asking now, can your school do better to support the physical and mental well being of the students and staff?

    You do have me tagged on professionals. I am a professional and I’ve seen lack of self evaluation in my industry kill. For a time most in our profession said our rules were good enough, that we couldn’t do better. Our profession was wrong. So no, professional doesn’t mean above question.

    So on to information: Beth at 1:55pm defended the school, and it was a good start. But she left some questions open. The other Beth(s?) at 9:32am and 3:43pm asked the same valid question. Were other students present and did their actions indicate a threat was present? They were playing immune system, right? Were bacteria actors getting “killed,” retreating, or acting frightened? Are the cameras too low resolution to tell what is happening? The display screens too small?
    The Beth at 1:55 said that “In minutes it was determined what really happened.” So I’m also left wondering why the all clear took a half hour, just like Brook wanted to know. Did it take half an hour? Do you know what was happening between the “in minutes it was determined what really happened” and the presumed 30 minute point at which the students and teachers got the all clear? Why keep everyone in suspense that long? Did they need to keep the halls clear for the police? If so, was there a reason they couldn’t simply announced that fact and let everyone know they were safe?

    If it didn’t appear to be an instant threat, what procedural alternatives does the school have? Most schools I have seen with interior hallways have windows in the classroom doors, and communications between office and classroom. Does this school? What about this situation made it appear too dangerous to have a nearby teacher take a peak and report back? Did it look like a shooting was in progress? No good viewing angle? Where there kids laying on the ground pretending to be shot? Did they get up when the lock down was called? Did the students involved in making this immune system video go to a classroom for shelter? Was the front office able to track the “gunman” and others involved to their shelter point(s)? Was there an ability to communicate with them/their teachers and get the needed information? Where the teachers in their rooms asked to evaluate their condition, or have those students provide information? Was someone monitoring the movements of the “gunman?” Did the “gunman” with “gun” take shelter in a nearby room? Did anyone have eyes on him who could answer what he was carrying? If any of those students could be communicated with, why did it take so long to sound the all clear? If they and/or nearby staff couldn’t be communicated with, why not?

    Could we do better? What is the trade off between safety and avoiding panic, could a better balance be struck?

  38. Beth December 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    @Reality much, I notice that neither of your posts shares with us the “actual details and facts” that we are don’t know, just rants about how dumb we are.

    I wonder why you won’t give us the missing information.

  39. fjdsfkfjdik December 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    THESE ARE THE DETAILS: During first period, 4 boys were in the hallway working on an immune system project which involved using an umbrella to appear as a gun, and this was DURING CLASS. Which is of course the reason that there were no other people in the hallway and that on the security cameras, it appeared as though there were 4 boys walking through an empty hallway with a gun. Before even calling the lockdown drill, the high school security guards and administrators called the police in to evaluate the video, in which it truly appeared that it was a gun and not an umbrella. Then, at the beginning of 2nd period, the lockdown drill was called. What if it WAS a gun? At that point, no one knew, and the high school made a responsible decision to protect both its students and staff. Despite the fear that people may have gone through, I’d much rather have my school mistake an umbrella for a gun than a gun for an umbrella. And I know for a fact that most kids in the school feel incredibly grateful for the safety precautions made by administrators. The way that the teachers handled the situation, calmly and willing to do whatever it took to protect their students, was courageous and would be reassuring in a case where there was danger. Although it was not a gun and all of you uninformed commenters call this “foolish” and a “classic overreaction”, you have no idea what was going through everyone’s head in that school and no right to criticize the decisions that were made.

  40. Reality Much December 19, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Tamara- My self serving rant differs from others in that it is based on knowing the students, administrators and police officers involved in this story. My opinion isn’t born from a reaction to a blurb by Ms. Skenazy declaring the issue an classic overreaction and from a 2 minute news clip. This isn’t a parlor game for me or the many colleagues who are acting on behalf of the saftey of 1400 students.

  41. Reality Much December 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Havva-Very few of the posters here are looking for incremental discussion on procedure issues. It seems to me most posters here are looking confirmation of this free range world view.

  42. buffy December 19, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    I’m going to re-ask what was already asked above: Was the front office able to track the “gunman” and others involved to their shelter point(s), once the lockdown was put into effect? Was there an ability to communicate with them/their teachers and get the needed information? Where the teachers in their rooms asked to evaluate their condition, or have those students provide information?

    My own question is, is this a huge school? I’m only wondering because if security guards (who are presumably there every day) and administrators (at least some of whom are presumably there every day) couldn’t recognize even one of the kids to say “Hey, that’s Joe Schmo. Weird that he would be involved in something like this, let’s go talk to him and his friends.”

  43. Havva December 19, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    @ fjdsfkfjdik… was that you reality much? Thanks for the time line. Still have several open questions. But think everyone’s emotions could use a rest. Sounds like the school hoped the cops, via video, could put it to rest without disturbing a class. But it wound up causing more trouble than it saved. I’m a big fan of eyes on a situation. I’ve heard enough experts say, I can fool the sensors, but not “the Mark 1 human eyeball.”

  44. Much Reality December 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    I am a student at Upper dublin, where this incident took place. Reality much has it all wrong and goes against the philosophy of this blog. The current protocols for an armed intruder (whether “armed” means gun or umbrella) is to go into lockdown. Now what Ms. Skenazy advocates and what I believe in is a protocol that allows kids to fend for themselves as individual classes. For example if a shooter enters a classroom the class should bum rush the intruder and incapacitate him/her before the shooter could move onto another room. Would there be casualties? yes. But think of the lives saved through this course of action. At most, if an entire class attacked together, 3-5 people would be killed. We already know in sandy hook that a lone gunner can kill much more than that just through roaming. This also validates the idea of HIGH SCHOOLERS taking charge of their own lives and not being paralyzed by fear.

  45. Reality much? December 20, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Havva it is hard to believe but there are other people who were there and don’t agree with the supposition that the school comitted a “classic overreaction”.

    Honestly, my issue with Skenazy is that she has gone from social critic with a valid argument (taken in moderation) to a person who has morphed into a self promoting cottage industry that HAS to look at any incident like the one that happened at my High School through the prism of “society over protects kids”.

    In general I don’t care if she sees that as her way to make a living, “sistah’s” gotta earn a buck. My issue is when it lands in my backyard. She took a cheap shot by using this incident, that was handled with professionalism and care by people I like and respect, to further her cult of personality crusade. She has a thoughtful argument, believe me I’ve seen my share of helicopter parents, but she undermines it when she becomes Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh or Al Sharpton.

    Clearly in my first post I take issue with the army of “amens” echooed by people who already have a disposition to agree with this “free range” perspective uncritically.

    Was this incident a shining moment for my school? Hardly. Do I think the administration and police are reviewing their response and taking lessons from it, I certainly do. However to make it seem like a student bringing a rifle to school is far fetched, consider in the township next to ours a student as recently as 3 years ago brought a rifle to school and committed suicide in the hallways.

    This was a good faith reaction to a set of information that no less than 4 professionals viewed as dangerous. In the crucible of time they were allowed they had to make immediate decisions to ensure the safety and well being of the staff and students of the school. The vast majority of the school community here is glad they acted the way they did.

    Rant ended…

  46. Neil M December 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Reality, the reason I reacted to you as a troll is because you behaved like one. If you want to engage in reasoned discourse, I welcome your input. However, when you come into a thread talking about cults of personality and shticks and putting quotes around every other word, you’re not engaging in reasoned discourse but acting like a troll.

    I do see, however, that a bit further along in the thread you take a more intellectual approach, and for that I applaud you. I still hold my original position; that this situation demonstrates the bind in which authorities find themselves. If they take a more patient approach to questionable situations they risk looking as if they are asleep on the job, so they instead hit the panic button every time. When a situation provides incentives to overreact, people will quite naturally overreact.