School Safety

Things to think about as we do safety drills this month:

School Safety Reminders: Not IF but WHEN it Happens

  • Be diligent when on duty outside, report anything suspicious to office- make sure you have a walkie talkie out on the playground with you
  • Classroom Doors should be locked at ALL times. Make sure you have your magnets in place
  • Remember your secondary exit- which way do you go?
  • If anything is broken or damaged in your classroom please put in a maintenance request.
  • Review your lockdown procedures in the red folder. Consider the "what if's": What if you are outside? in hallway? at restroom? at lunch?...
  • Plan for the worst, Pray for the best

Script for Explaining Lockdowns to Students

School Safety & Crisis Response Committee came up with the following script, which we thought might be useful to other schools.

Every day, we do things to keep ourselves safe. Let's think of some examples. What do you put on before you start biking? What do you do before walking across the street? Another way we stay safe is by practicing for things that probably won't happen but it is good to be prepared for just in case. One way we do this at school, for instance, is by practicing fire drills and severe weather drills. Practice helps us know what to do just in case of an emergency.

Another kind of situation we can prepare for is when we need to keep you safe from a stranger while you are at school. This would probably never happen but just like a fire drill, we can practice our response so we are prepared.

Later this month, we will practice this in a drill called a "Lockdown Drill." During this drill, the teachers lock us inside for safety. You will know we are having a lockdown drill when you hear the announcement from the office: Attention Kilgore Primary, we are in lockdown.

Here are the steps of what we do during a lockdown drill:

The acronym is PAL.

  • P is for PAUSE: First, pause and take a deep breath. Breathing helps your mind work.
  • A is for ADULT: Wherever you are on campus, find a trusted adult. If you are in the classroom, stay there and find your teacher or other adult in the room. If you are outside, look for the teacher or other adult closest to you to tell you what to do and where to go.
  • L is for LISTEN: Listen to the adult's instructions. The adult will know what to do and will tell you. This is trickier than a fire drill because depending on where you are, you won't always go to the same place each time. You will know what to do if you listen. Also during this time, the teachers will lock the doors to their classrooms. When everything is safe, the adult will tell you that everything is all clear and we can go back to our regular school day.

We are all here to keep you safe. Practice means we are prepared and can feel confident that we all know what to do just in case. Having a plan like this and practicing what to do in a lockdown drill means that we don't have to worry about these concerns and instead we can focus on having fun and learning at school.

Words for During the Lockdown Drill, By: Judith Simon Prager, PhD

Even a rudimentary visit to the playground will verify that whether a child cries or not over a fall has less to do with pain and bleeding and more with whether the adult who responds does so with panic or calm assurance.

Moreover, how we address a crisis is often how the child will ultimately remember it, whether it will be recalled as a trauma or a time of courage and rescue. The teachers in the Newton tragedy who died saving the children likely modeled ultimate bravery and selflessness. Those who survived told us what they said and did: Kaitlin Roig told the children that they "were waiting for the good guys to come and get us," and music teacher Maryrose Kristopik, said "We hid in a closet, we stayed quiet, we held hands, we hugged." Each in her own way protected the children and reassured them that they were loved, even that they would have another Christmas. They did them a great service beyond saving their lives. When the teachers remained calm, they offered the children a model for courage and faith and a different kind of memory of the inherently terrifying situation.

What else can we say during a shelter drill that would keep the children feeling safe? And, ultimately, how can we help them not only feel safe but find their resilience?

There are words that reassure at a profoundly deep level. "I'm right here," says you don't have to fix this all by yourself. Someone else knows and will help take care of it. In a different way, so does "Let your teacher guide and protect you."

"Help is on the way. It's going to be okay," says that we're not alone in this.

"Hiding and listening is making things safe for now and you're doing a good job of it," says that there is something you can do, you're not just a victim, but someone who is making a difference by his/her actions (or quiet).

If the wait is long, "Let's imagine a place we love to be... your favorite vacation. You don't have to talk about it. Just remember it, everything you loved about it."

One small suggestion about what to do.

I'd recommend, as Ms. Kristopik did, that children hold each others' hands, off and on. In what is sometimes referred to as "borrowed strength," we gain courage by being in this together. Researchers at the University of Virginia's neuroscience laboratory say that hand holding actually changes the wiring in our brains and makes us feel protected and comforted.

Let us hope that we can change the world for the better so that some day we do not have to practice hiding from those who would harm us. And in the meantime, let us find ways to help keep as many innocents as possible safe in body and spirit.