Sunday, May 15, 2011

Locked Down, Locked Up

I realize that when you are dealing with issues like the safety of schoolchildren, a lot of your decisions are going to be based on fear as much as anything else.  Even though it might be statistically unlikely, having policies which address unsettling scenarios like a school shooting could potentially save a life a someday, so having 'lockdown drills' in addition to fire drills makes a certain amount of sense.

As a result of this, I was not surprised last week when Fenya mentioned they'd had a lockdown drill that day, and was laughing about it because she had been in the bathroom when it occurred.

"Well, at least you were sitting down, right?" I joked with her.  She and Glory both shook their heads.

"If you are in the bathroom when they say 'lockdown' over the intercom," Fenya explained, "you have to pull your legs up so they can't be seen from outside the stall."

My blood ran a little cold.

I think Glory might have misinterpreted my surprise as meaning I didn't understand the purpose of the maneuver, so she explained.  "You see Daddy, that way if someone tries to peek underneath, they won't see your feet on the floor and maybe won't come and try and hurt you."

Fenya nodded.  "And you can't let your head show over the top of the stall either, so I had to basically squat there for thirty or forty minutes until they said it was 'All Clear'!"

She was smiling as she said it, simply recalling a humorous inconvenience from her day, and a break from her normal routine, but I still found it a little unsettling.  I'd assumed these drills were just a swift way to insure that all the classroom and building doors were locked so that a person of malicious intent couldn't simply roam the halls at will, but there was clearly more to them than that.  I managed to put a frail smile into place so I didn't inadvertently freak them out.

Glory nodded at Fenya's toilet predicament; "We were in our class, so we had to get out of our desks and go lay down on the floor by the windows."

Now I was actually a little confused.  "Why would you do that?" I inquired.

She finished a mouthful of her dinner and in a matter-of-fact voice told me, "So someone bad couldn't look in the window and see you, and maybe shoot a gun.  If you are lying down by the window, they can't see you."

That's when it became clear to me that a lockdown drill was not nearly as simple a process as I had previously believed.  What I had thought to be an exercise in access control and perimeter security was, in practice, a chance for my children to play hide-and-go-seek with a hypothetical gunman.

I can't say this made me very happy, but really safety issues are supposed to be a little scary, right?  No one wants to actually think about the building they're in catching fire, but knowing what to do if this should happen means that it may happen in a quick and orderly fashion.

While I am not quite old enough to have experienced seeing instructional films like Bert the Turtle's "Duck and Cover!" from the 1950s and 60s, there was a real sense of potential conflict with the Soviet Union.  In fact, Audrey remembers playing at school when she was about 8 years old, and low-flying planes prompted here and her classmates to run under a playground slide.  Everyone in Leduc knew that the siren at the Alexandra Arena which summoned the volunteer fire department would also double as an air raid siren in the event of an attack.

For better or worse, it makes more sense for my girls to do these lockdown drills than it ever did for an American school kid to practice throwing his bike down and laying down next to a curb after a multi-kiloton nuke has just gone off down the block, but I hope they keep being motivated by caution and practicality, and not just blind fear.

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