kitchen table math, the sequel: school security - just a question

Friday, December 14, 2012

school security - just a question

I'm reading that the Newtown hospital is on lockdown -- what is lockdown, exactly?

My school district (which I'm assuming is similar to Newtown) began regular lockdown drills years ago, I think because the then-new superintendent was focused on security.

Does a lockdown mean no one can get out? Are people locked in as well as locked out?

How does it work?


kcab said...

I've been told that lockdown includes locking interior doors - at least it did in my kids schools.

Or, you know what, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that was the 'shelter in place' drill? Not sure. I think they're locked in though.

ChemProf said...

Here's an example of a lock down procedure. Yes, it keeps people locked in as well as locked out, which is a major problem with the policy.

Catherine Johnson said...

ChemProf - that's what I was wondering (but didn't want to say so in the post).

I'm going to pause for a moment just to UNDERLINE the fact that I'm asking the question ***generally*** (and specifically about my own district, obviously), not to suggest or imply anything about the situation in Newtown. (My initial impression, based in the sketchy reports we have, is that a lockdown procedure wouldn't have helped AND wouldn't have hurt, either.)

I remember, one day, a friend of mine was told she should get out of the school right that minute or she would be locked in & not allowed to leave. This was for a lockdown drill, and the school apparently had the authority to lock people in and keep them in regardless of their stated desire to leave ---

Is that true?

Of course, the idea that people would be locked inside a building with an armed killer struck me as worrisome ----

I'll go look at the link.

Catherine Johnson said...

Oh-- looks like people can get out --- here's the wording I find:

All campus buildings will be locked to prevent entrance from the outside. Exit from the buildings will still be possible by pushing the crash bars. Students and personnel should not exit the building unless the situation in the building requires escape.

btw, in Los Angeles it was actually illegal (as I recall) even to be ABLE to lock yourself inside a building. We broke the law & installed locks that could lock us in because Jimmy was constantly escaping.

But it was dangerous and it always FELT dangerous, too, given the Earthquakes. I actually used to wear a key on a chain around my neck in case their was a fire.

If buildings are now being built so that people can be locked **in**, that strikes me as ----- surprising.

ChemProf said...

They tell you not to leave, but yes, most buildings are built so you can get out even if they are locked. So you aren't locked in in that sense.

Crimson Wife said...

When my DH was in the Army, the S.O.P. was to do a lockdown of the unit whenever sensitive materials (usually weapons or night-vision goggles) were unaccounted for. No one was allowed in or out but while there were armed military police guarding the exits, I'm 99% sure that those inside were not physically locked in.

FormerCTMom said...

Lockdown is what may have saved lives in that school. It means that the teachers shove their kids into the safest possible space in the room and LOCK the door. This keeps the killer out of the room. The reason that the toll was so high at VA Tech was because they didn't have a lockdown, and the gunman visited classroom after classroom.

lgm said...

The timing on this incident meant that many students were likely traveling between their classroom and the office bringing down attendance and lunch reports, as well as visiting the library for SSR material. Going in to hard lockdown meant that each child was immediately placed under direct adult supervision and moved to the safest position in the room possible - staff checks the hallway, pulls in any nearby person, and locks the door. Any unlocked windows are locked. The corridors are clear. Anyone that was outdoors will be moved to the designated safe location, which is not necessarily the school bldg. Doors and windows are locked.

A soft lockdown is also used in certain situations. Students with urgent needs can use the bathroom w/supervision if they are not in the affected zone, but everyone else stays in position and the classroom learning proceeds. Outdoor activities are cancelled.Doors and windows are locked.

People can still exit the bldg, by unlocking the windows, just as they would if the fire alarm was pulled in the winter, but the situation will tell if that is in their best interests.

It seems clear to me that our mental health system needs revamping.

FormerCTMom said...

A quote from coverage of the shooting
"Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik was hailed as a hero for barricading 15 children in one closet, where they could hear the bloodthirsty Lanza screaming, “Let me in!”"
This is how a lockdown can save lives

lgm said...

To answer your original question -- a hospital lockdown means that perimeter is secured and visitor access is restricted or screened more than usual. The police are involved.

palisadesk said...

We have two types of lockdown, depending on whether the perceived threat is external or internal. They have different names (which escape me at the moment), but we have drills for both and the rationale is calmly explained to students.

When the threat is external -- usually, a police action somewhere in the vicinity -- all entrances to the building are locked, external windows are locked and shades drawn, and first-floor classrooms with windows fronting on the exterior of the building are required to have lights turned off and students moved away from the windows as a precaution. Learning activities can continue, although sometimes what the students are doing is affected by the lights being turned off. I was in one classroom where the teacher switched from guided reading activities to choral music during this lockdown. Doors to the classrooms were not locked, and students could use the rest rooms under supervision -- administrators and support personnel patrolled the halls to ensure students could be hustled to safety should the situation escalate.

When the threat is inside the building (I was in the computer lab during one such incident), teachers are asked to lock their doors if possible - many classroom doors cannot be locked from the inside however, and teachers using resource rooms, conference rooms or offices may not have keys to those rooms - but students or staff were not to leave the rooms for any reason until an all-clear was announced. One of my students wanted to use the restroom but I had to tell her NO. In our case it was a middle school student having a major meltdown in the hall and armed with a baseball bat or hockey stick threatening mayhem. After leading several burly staff on a merry chase he fled the building and was apprehended in the parking lot. Mental health issues were involved.

I did not have keys to the computer lab however, so had an armed intruder been involved I would have had no way of locking the door. In my experience, which is limited in these matters, the lockdowns have all been brief and care taken to keep the staff and students informed in a calm and matter-of-fact way.

Catherine Johnson said...

Haven't read everything yet - but I have a follow-up question to Former CT Mom (if you're around) -- or to everyone, really --

This is grisly, but ---- how strong are the doors? Can a person shoot through them?

Catherine Johnson said...

The reason that the toll was so high at VA Tech was because they didn't have a lockdown, and the gunman visited classroom after classroom.

That makes sense.

Thanks for posting.

Catherine Johnson said...

It seems clear to me that our mental health system needs revamping.

Oh, boy. You're preaching to the choir (as far as I'm concerned).

Another question: would gun control laws help??

I absolutely can't tell.

As far as I can see, just looking very quickly at the 'literature' on mass killers, they seem to be 'organized' (in the psychiatric sense of the word), able to plan ahead, etc -----

Here's my bottom line, though.

Station police officers in schools.

ChemProf said...

Yes, you can shoot through any of these doors with typical calibers.

In our building, the doors lock but all have side windows that could easily be shot out. And the classroom doors can't be locked from the inside. With warning, I could lock it from the outside though. The best bet would be to pull students to the middle of the room, have them get low, and hope the gunman didn't see them when he looked in the windows.

Generally, security at schools and colleges is nonexistent. Even given the old saw that "when seconds count, the police are minutes away."

Lgm said...

We have security guards in every school in my district. All of the violent students were moved to alternative settings after things got out of control a few years ago. Our schools are peaceful now. The ele. security guards mainly help the staff with parent issues. Walkie-talkies and cameras are ubiqtuous and that seems to be a huge deterrent to trouble makers since backup can be summoned quickly and the dispatcher is aware of the guard's status and location.

I appreciate having had the privilege of attending k-8 school on military bases where violence, drug dealing, and foul language were not tolerated. It is a completely different atmosphere than a public school in a diverse neighborhood has. Sad that so many students never have the experience of being in a place of academic, rather than social learning.

Lgm said...

The horrific home invasion of 2007 in ct probably still weighs on many homeowners' minds, prompting many to not secure their weapon of choice when there are no children in the home.

Gun and ammo control laws don't matter to mentally ill people. They just switch to a different weapon. Since we can't amputate their feet and fists, we need to find a different solution than taking away their weapons. It would make things a little harder if they didn't have easy access to vehicles and guns thru their family members, but where there is a will, a determined mind will find a way. We need mental health care for these people that are "off".

kcab said...

Where I am now, in California, the schools are so much more porous than the schools my kids have attended in the Northeast that I have no idea what is considered security out here. The Sandy Hook school sounds fairly similar to the elementary schools we knew in CT, relatively few doors to the outside, buzzer to be let into the school (had to look at the security camera in ours), interior hallways, classroom doors that could be locked, and K/1st classrooms having their own attached bathrooms accessed only from within the room. Here, I don't know - it's all a bunch of disconnected one-floor buildings with each classroom having exterior doors and windows. The campuses have many points of entry, and I don't think they are at all monitored. They don't make any attempt to control access at the high school. In some ways, I think it might be safer since everyone can get out quickly and run away, but there is no appreciable barrier to entering any individual classroom.

Totally agree with better mental health care, of course, but I would like guns to be less accessible to anyone who is mentally disturbed. And, since I think everyone is potentially mentally disturbed, that means that I want guns to be less accessible all around. Having murderous people switch to other weapons would be preferable to the current ease of carnage.

Lgm said...

I'll disagree with that thought. The precipitating incident here , that moved the community to action when they were largely silent on drug dealer hits that stopped just short of death, was a knife fight that involved large numbers of students and left a mess. The next incident would only have escalated into many deaths, as the participants gained experience. I think we need to hold parents responsible for civilizing their children. Those that do not want to agree to the rule of the law against hurting others physically can exit and live in a second or third world country where daily violence against others is the norm.

Interesting how times change. When I was in high school boys would keep their hunting rifles in their trucks. They could be brought in to shop class. What they could not bring in was a knife with a blade over a certain length. There was no fighting on our rural campus....those that wanted to settle differences would schedule it on their own time. The school grounds were as respected as the church property was.

palisadesk said...

To Catherine's question, "how strong are the doors?" I think the best answer is, "It depends."

Many of the interior doors are made of some kind of wood material. They are relatively lightweight, and I would think that anything stronger than a shotgun pellet would go through them. The teacher from Sandy Hook who was briefly interviewed on ABC mentioned that she was sure the gunman would come in and, hearing any sound from the 3x3 bathroom (where she stuffed all 17 of her students plus herself), would start shooting through the door. Slightly OT -- I found her story very moving. Her combination of quick thinking, composure and compassion was amazing. Check out the video -- it's on YouTube, about 4 minutes long.

Not all doors are wooden, however. Exterior doors are heavy-duty metal -- I doubt one could shoot through them, and some interior doors, to the gym, to the library, to corridors are of similar material. Locking those, if there were sufficient time, would slow done any assault by limiting access to parts of the building. Some rooms, especially offices and storerooms, also have heavy-duty doors.

It seems to me, though I have limited specific knowledge of these things, that it would be possible to have an electronic locking system that could be activated from one or several central locations, and that would lock all rooms from the outside at the press of a button or switch (those inside could still get out from the inside, or would have keys to do so).

Catherine Johnson said...

Generally, security at schools and colleges is nonexistent.

You can say that again.

I've thought about this pretty often, given the attackers in Arizona & Colorado. The fact is, I've had students who worried me. That's why I've thought about it.

Of course now that I'm reading the Secret Service report, I don't know what to think ---- "school shooters," at least, can't be profiled because they don't have a profile.

I have an FBI report on 'mass murderers," as opposed to school attackers, that I haven't read yet, so I don't know whether there is a valid profile of that population.

Catherine Johnson said...

I appreciate having had the privilege of attending k-8 school on military bases where violence, drug dealing, and foul language were not tolerated. It is a completely different atmosphere than a public school in a diverse neighborhood has.


I went back and found some of the bullying research I have today. Lo and behold, I have a study on "authoritative" schools & bullying.

In authoritative schools, you have far less bullying. (I have to read the article before saying more --- )

I was thinking today: do we see school shootings in charter schools? Do we see bullying?

Do we see school shootings in Catholic schools?

(These questions are partly rhetorical, but the fact is that I don't know the answer --- )

Catherine Johnson said...

palisadesk - that's exactly what Ed said: they need doors they can lock from the office.

Like on cars.

Of course he would think of that. He's constantly locking us all in....

Catherine Johnson said...

Totally agree with better mental health care, of course, but I would like guns to be less accessible to anyone who is mentally disturbed. And, since I think everyone is potentially mentally disturbed, that means that I want guns to be less accessible all around. Having murderous people switch to other weapons would be preferable to the current ease of carnage.

That's one of those things I'm curious about (and can't work my way through ....)

First of all, YES, I personally would like mentally disturbed people NOT to get their hands on guns.

(As sad as I feel for Adam Lanza's mom, I keep thinking ----- FIVE GUNS????? YOU HAD A DISTURBED SON AND FIVE GUNS???? I ***don't*** say that to be mean or even sarcastic, although I know it sounds both ---- it just keeps coming back to me ----- )

Anyway, back on track: I've been wondering about the 'substitution' issue.

If you managed to take guns away from disturbed teens who want to attack their schools, would they switch to something else (and potentially worse - the Columbine students actually wanted to bomb the school).

I'm not so sure they would, ONLY because they're teens and their thinking is awfully .... 'concrete' or perseverative or something along those lines. (Mass murderers who are fully adult are a different story, and I'm not talking about them.)

The Secret Service report found that nearly all of the school attackers had guns around and had learned to use them.

That strikes me as significant, and as a form of "environmental dependence": the environment controls your actions. If there's a gun, you shoot the gun; if there's a knife, you stab somebody, and so on.

I think it's a real possibility that teen killers wouldn't switch.

Catherine Johnson said...

The classic illustration of "environmental dependence" is the patient who comes into the doctor's office, sees the stethoscope, picks it up and starts examining the doctor.

The environment tells him to do it.

As I understand it, teens are by nature more environmentally dependent than adults. (Must fact-check.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Every time lgm writes about that school district I have an impulse to drive up there, grab someone by the collar, and shake some sense into them.

I'm sure that would work.

Lgm said...

Our current High school principal has common sense. He appears to be able to help ill fitting tenured staff find more suitable positions as well as keep peace. There is of course a partnership with the police as well as an SRO. Forcing diversity on unwilling participants and shutting down criminal behavior is not easy.