My First Lockdown

As part of my incredibly-stressful-library-grad-school-experience, I work as a Research Assistant (RA) on a particular project being conducted by a few professors and academic librarians.

Part of my RA duties recently have included spending far too much time in high schools administering an online skills test.

First of all, going back to high school has not been so much fun. I hated high school.

Second, going back to a school period has not been so much fun. I used to be the teacher, but am not anymore for whatever reasons that I don't need to be reminded of.

Today, however, proved to be rather interesting, if not absolutely terrifying.

So I'm just sitting in the computer lab working on my homework, waiting for students to show up to write the test, when all of a sudden this message comes over the intercom:



Fortunately, the secretary had given me a timetable with the lockdown procedures on the back, which I followed as best I could. I shut the door (which was locked anyways), turned off the lights, made sure the blinds and the windows were closed, and retreated to the far corner of the room, out of sight of the door's window.

The school went silent. Then intercom came on again and just kept repeating "--- SCHOOL IS IN LOCKDOWN."

And I sat there in the dark.

At one point, someone came and jiggled the door handle, and by their shadow I could tell they were looking in the window to see if anyone was in the room. The lockdown procedure sheet said I was not to move, regardless of commotion or police presence in the hallway. Cell Phone use was also prohibited.

The whole time I'm thinking "Is this real or is this a drill?"

Not lying, my heart was racing.

The intercom kept repeating the lockdown message. For like 5 minutes. Then the intercom switched from the recorded message to the secretary saying about how it was a drill and thank you for participating and mostly the school passed the test.

Good freakin' grief!!

I did go later to the office and remark to the secretary that they could've warned me, but she said no one knows when these drills happen, which was echoed by a teacher's aide later that day. The TA said that the drills happened once a term or so. I guess the students are expected to sit on the floor so that they can't be seen from the door/windows, and that if they are wandering the halls they have to either go to the nearest classroom, or lock themselves in a bathroom stall and stand on the toilet so they can't be seen. She also mentioned that the cement walls were pretty thick, so it was ok to sit against them as they'd block 'debris'. She said it's good for  the school to get used to the whole procedure in case anything bad really happened.

What kind of world do we live in if our kids have to go through lockdown drills at school?!

It must be terrifying to students the first few times, particularly those who are younger or sensitive. I wonder how they do this drill in elementary schools? There must be tears.

Lockdown drills never happened when I was in school/high school/teaching. I remember doing Tornado drills as a kid, but that's it. While teaching in the UK, I used to remark that I was a prison warden, because the schools were always locked up and surrounded by high chain link fences that didn't let anyone in while school was in session. It's not like they had fields or wide open spaces to play on anyways. Regardless of their high fences, my UK schools never had anything like lockdown drills and besides so-and-so punching so-and-so safety was never an issue.

Schools used to be safe. I supposed that's changed. That makes me sad.

And a bit paranoid...