What parents need to know about school lockdowns

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It’s an unfortunate fact that lockdowns have become more and more commonplace in American schools.

According to a Washington Post analysis, at least 4 million students went through at least one school lockdown during the 2017–2018 school year. That staggering number breaks down to 6,200 individual lockdowns over the year, or 16 school lockdowns on an average day in America.

Thankfully, the vast majority of all lockdowns are precautionary in nature and are lifted without incident. But that doesn’t make them any less stressful or frustrating for parents waiting to find out if their children are safe.

As a school district, it is our job to develop a comprehensive safety plan and then make sure we’re communicating effectively with parents.

To start, it’s important to remember that not all lockdowns are alike. In Bethel, we use modified lockdowns and full lockdowns.

Modified lockdowns are used frequently as a safety protocol. The modified lockdown assures a more controlled environment for students, allowing authorities and school administrators to look into and handle situations that are not putting students or staff in imminent danger. It also helps assure students and staff don’t walk into a situation unknowingly.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department could put our schools into a modified lockdown or a full lockdown for a number of reasons, including police activity near a campus, an actual or perceived threat to school occupants, or an on-campus intruder, either inside or outside a school building.

The purpose of a full lockdown is to move students, staff, and visitors into the nearest secured area to minimize their exposure to a potential threat, whether internal or external.

In the event of a full lockdown we respectfully ask that parents and family members not come to the school where the lockdown is currently in place. Not only does it put you in danger, but it diverts police attention away from the current situation. We also ask that parents and family members not call the school, as our phone lines are needed to communicate with first responders.

The men and women charged with protecting our schools — both law enforcement and school safety officials — spend their lives honing these protocols to ensure the safest environment possible.

We know how fast information (and misinformation) can travel in the world we live in today. In the event of a lockdown, we are working hand-in-hand with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. As they assess the situation and give us factual information to share, we will send information to you via phone, email, and text message. Be sure to check with your school office to make sure your contact numbers and email addresses are up to date. Calls to parents are always made first.

After parents are contacted directly, we may also communicate information via social media and our district website.

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Speaking to K12 Insight, Dr. Nora Carr, a national expert in school security and communications, said that while keeping parents informed is vital, a school district’s first priority has to be the safety of its students and staff.

“When there is a real threat or a concern or a crisis at a school, the top priority is always going to be–as it should be–keeping students and staff safe. That’s job one. Communications is going to come in second,” said Dr. Carr.

There may be more that parents want to know about a given situation, however, districts are not always in a position to share certain information because of privacy laws and ongoing investigations.

If you have any additional questions about lockdown drills and procedures at your child’s school, please contact your school office.

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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