We deserve to be informed


Genna Sheriff

In a lockdown, don’t open the door for anyone. An officer will have a key to unlock it when everything is all clear.

By Genna Sheriff, Lincoln High School

The doors are locked, lights are off and silence overtakes the room. A lockdown drill is in place and students are participating to be prepared in case of impending disaster. At least, this is what is supposed to happen when a lockdown drill occurs. However, there are some cases where teachers choose to instruct right through the drill, not bothering to prepare their students for the worst-case scenario. 

I can remember participating in lockdown drills since the fourth grade. Back then, my teachers would make us sit in a corner of the room, not visible from the window in the door. We all crowded in and sat with our knees to our chests. Every light in the room was turned off and nobody dared to make a sound. 

As the years went on, I worked my way up through elementary and middle school, some teachers didn’t take the drills seriously and allowed students to talk or whisper. It was an example of “it’s probably never going to happen here” thinking. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There has never been an active shooter in the Sioux Falls School District, but we need to recognize that it is still a possibility. In Harrisburg, in September 2015, a student walked into the high school office and fired a shot toward the principal. The student then fled but was caught by the assistant principal and athletic director. Luckily, the principal was the only one who experienced injuries, and they were minor enough that he was able to return to school the next day. 

This happened only seven miles from LHS. That is only about 15 minutes away if you take Cliff Ave. I am not saying that this is going to happen, but what I am saying is that we as students deserve to be prepared. And in order to be prepared, we need to take lockdown drills seriously and not worry about losing precious class time. 

This is my fourth year at LHS, and it wasn’t until this last month that I felt that I was in a room that took the lockdown drill seriously. I was walking to class and didn’t make it there when the late bell rang. My friends and I kept walking until we heard over the intercom that there was now a lockdown drill happening. We were pulled into the closest room, where that teacher made sure we were participating in the drill the way we were intended. The room was pitch black, and we sat in silence until the door started rattling. The teacher was following protocol to stop the intruder, even though they knew it was a drill. When the police officer unlocked the door and gave us the “all clear” to turn the lights back on, I felt thankful that I was finally able to experience a drill the way we are supposed to. I can’t remember a time since the fifth grade that I had actually participated in a drill to this extent. 

While this teacher took the drill seriously, there are many who don’t – not only at LHS, but in other schools across the city. They will turn off the lights, but have the students remain seated while they continue on with the lecture, or they will allow students to talk right through it. This completely diminishes the importance of what is being taught during lockdown drills. When students and faculty know and have practiced the basic procedures, it is proven to slow down school shooters. According to NPR, “If the lights go out and doors are locked… the perpetrator will have fewer opportunities to kill students before police arrive.” If we don’t practice properly, students and faculty will be put in harm’s way.

While these procedures help students and faculty, they only practice the most basic responses available. Just locking the door and hiding should not be the only safety precaution you take in the event of an actual lockdown. We should be taught how to barricade the doors with heavy objects, for instance, among other information that could help us save lives. If after each lockdown drill we had an additional practice that taught us other ways to prepare for this often spontaneous event, we would know how to do more than just sit and wait, terrified that someone might break down the door.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, a lockdown drill should follow basic exercises and procedures and gradually move into more complex scenarios. This allows students to gradually adjust to the drills that can often induce anxiety. A school shooter won’t generally plan their attack during W.I.N time because it would be more convenient for the teachers. They come in any time they please. Students might not always be in a classroom when a shooting takes place. They could be in the hallways or at lunch and need to know what to do in that scenario. Where is the safest place to go? Which classroom is the closest? Is there an exit near me? All of those questions would come into play, and without practicing, students won’t  have the skills to answer these questions for themselves. Again, if administrators and teachers would take the time to dive deeper into these drills and spend more time talking about them with students, students might feel more prepared.

Teachers, if you are scared, anxious or unsure of what to do, seek out further information. Talk to the administration or school resource officers. They are here to help every student and faculty member to feel safe and prepared, regardless of the situation. 

It’s unnerving and upsetting that we have to learn and practice what to do in the case of a lockdown, but what’s more frustrating are the teachers who don’t inform their students on the most basic procedures offered. We can’t keep taking the easy way out and picking what is most convenient because school shootings aren’t convenient. They are terrible and horrific events, and, as students, we deserve to practice. We deserve to be informed. 

This story was originally published on The Statesman on October 28, 2019.