School lockdowns need to be rethought, U.S. safety experts advise
Published Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:04AM EDT
When an intruder invades a school in Canada, the usual protocol is to move into lockdown mode, with teachers telling students to hide inside classrooms.
But a pair of U.S. experts is suggesting that it might be time to rethink that approach, arguing that lockdowns might actually be turning students and school staff into “sitting ducks.”
This week, Amy and Amanda Klinger, with the U.S. non-profit “Educator's School Safety Network” in the U.S. led a symposium with the Ontario College of Teachers. They suggested that teachers need to be able to make informed decisions about how to react in crisis situations, armed with the best knowledge about works and what doesn’t.
Amy Klinger -- a former teacher who has worked with police chiefs and U.S. Homeland Security -- says instead of talking about bringing in full-time security guards or even arming teachers, as some have suggested be done south of the border, she believes the key is to educate teachers about the different approaches they can use.
“We are talking about empowering teachers and giving them additional tools in their toolbox to keep students safe,” Klinger told CTV’s Canada AM, speaking from Ottawa Thursday.
One of the first approaches that need to be revisited, she says, is whether simple lockdowns -- in which teachers lock doors and students hide under desks -- is always the best way to go.
“Some of the policies that are being revisited in the U.S. are taking us beyond just a simple sort of ‘hide out and hope’ approach,” Klinger said.
Those options include evacuating classrooms if it’s safe -- an approach that’s typically not taught to teachers.
“We talk a lot about potential evacuation, if that’s a safe option,” she said. “We’re very concerned with students and teachers who could escape, like when they’re in one end of the school and the event is at the other and they could leave.”
Another option involves barricading doors with anything in the classroom, such as desks or even a simple door wedge, to foil intruder attempts to enter the room and buy teachers and students a little more time.
Amanda Klinger says all these alternative approaches are based on the experiences of those who survived school invasions and massacres in the U.S.
“There’s been a lot of research that’s been conducted and we’re looking at confirmed reports from these incidents and the things that worked,” she said.
Amanda notes that during the hours-long Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, students in the targeted study hall were able to successfully barricade rooms.
“When we talk about controlled and safe evacuation, there were instances in the Columbine massacre of people who evacuated with great success,” she said.
Amy Klinger says it’s time to move away from an approach in which schools and teachers rely on police to tell them what to do, and instead teach educators about managing such crises on their own.
“This is an educational issue instead of a law enforcement issue,” she said.” We’re trying to decentralize the decision-making so that everyone in the school has a role to play in the response and everyone has the capabilities to keep themselves safe.”