I wasn’t that young when Columbine happened, but I was young enough that I don’t remember much of it. You’d think I’d remember more because I had a cousin that was there, but I don’t. I don’t remember talking about it much in school, and I certainly don’t remember things changing because of what happened.
I don’t know exactly when things started to change. By the time I had graduated college the schools in our area had scheduled lock down drills just as they had scheduled fire and tornado drills. For some schools it’s especially good to have the drills because some of the schools code the lock down announcement, so you have to really be paying attention to what’s being said. One time a few years ago when I was subbing a suspicious looking person, thought to be carrying a gun, was spotted near one of the area schools. We were put into a lock down for over an hour and it later it became a lock in (we could teach but no one could leave or enter the building). Luckily it turned out to be a false alarm, but it was a scary day.
The first day back at school after the Sandy Hook shooting created a bit of a stir. Some parents were nervous about sending their kids to school and you heard talk about it from kids of all ages. I had fourth graders asking each other if they had heard about what had happened. We teachers handled everything professionally. Luckily, in the school I was at at least, none of the kids seemed that disturbed by it. I think the fact that parents had the weekend to help their kids understand what was going on helped. Even with some of the fear and worry the school day went on as normal, and it continued that way until everyone went on break for the holidays.
When we returned to school though I realized that changes had taken place in some of the school districts. The biggest one I noticed was in the biggest district that I work at. It has now become district policy that all classroom doors remain locked and shut when students are present. One of the schools even has a roll of paper at the top of each door ready to be rolled down to cover the door window. Now everyone is wondering about what normal things they can still do I was in a very hot classroom the other day. I was discussing the heat with the actual teacher and she was saying that when that happens she opens the windows, but even she questioned which windows to open. Having the emergency windows opened seems even less safe than unlocked classroom doors.
I can kind of see why the district is enforcing this policy, but I can’t help but feel that locking the kids in is like putting them in prison cells. Yes we can get out, but no one can get in. Even the locked out substitute. The part that I really don’t like for the students is that every time someone needs in the knocking on the door, and the opening of the door, distracts the kids from their work. When the bathrooms are down the hall this can cause the distraction to happen many, many times an hour. I know it’s for the student’s protection, and I totally respect that, but that doesn’t mean I personally have to like it.
I grew-up in a small community. When I was in 5th grade one of the teachers shot and killed the superintendent. He also shot the principal and a teacher (they survived). Luckily it was after school hours, but I know there are crazy people everywhere and that horrible things can happen anywhere and at any time. Still I don’t want to live my life in fear. In the last year we’ve seen that we’re not safe at school, in a theatre, or even at the mall. It just seems that our world is a little less safe every day, and just as we saw after September 11, we all have to make sacrifices to protect ourselves from possible crazy and evil people.
Have you seen any changes around your school districts for student protection?