When I began teaching in 1986, all the doors on my school's sprawling 64-acre campus opened via doorknobs. And those doorknobs locked from the outside. All classrooms open to the great outdoors. We had emergency procedures for fires and earthquakes.
Since Columbine, the doors were retrofitted with exterior pull handles and interior crash bars. The doors can be locked from the inside. Emergency procedures of lockdown and shelter-in-place were added.
In recent years, a predictable pattern has emerged. Whenever an unscheduled lockdown or shelter-in-place occurs (and they are rare), the principal will get messages from concerned parents worried that the school had not taken the threat seriously enough. The verdict of disappointment will be shared, and further drills are scheduled.
We were recently placed on lockdown during our half-hour lunch period. I hustled nearby students (none of whom I knew) into my classroom and locked the room down. I was impressed how quickly the bustling outdoor lunch crowd of 1900+ students cleared into classrooms. The lockdown was eventually downgraded to a shelter in place. An administrator checked my classroom to provide an update.
(We later learned that a proximate shooting threat to a nearby school was made on social media. Nothing came of it other than that the recently expelled student from that school who made the threat was taken into custody in another part of town.)
As far as I could tell, the whole episode went to plan. My room of strangers behaved well and emerged unscathed.
But dissatisfaction was phoned in in the aftermath, so staff underwent additional training, and a followup drill was scheduled.
There is an assumption and expectation that schools (including open-air, indefensible campuses) stand ready to protect students from any attack at any time. No such expectation existed in 1986.
In any case, one thing faculty were warned against was any discussion that would do anything to diminish the fear of a potential mass shooting at the school. Stating the real statistics on mass shootings at school was cast as a no-no.
Don't get me wrong. I believe that the unfettered access to military-grade assault weaponry designed specifically to kill humans on the battlefield is a problem. Mass shootings at schools are a problem. But I'm not keen to put a spin on facts and reality. I listened to this just days after our emergency emergency training session.
On the Media: How to Report on Gun Violence in America
I'm fairly confident that every lockdown incident on campus, no matter how well executed by students and staff, will result in complaints of perceived shortcomings sent in by people who were not present during the incident. This will result in further emergency emergency training sessions and drills.