Lockdowns: How students are impacted and what parents can do to help

Lockdowns: How students are impacted and what parents can do to help

It's a nightmare for school districts, students, teachers, parents and everyone involved. School threats create anxiety, frustration, fear, anger and other emotions.

Escambia County School District (ECSD) Superintendent Malcom Thomas told Channel 3's Sue Straughn what prompts a lockdown at a school.

What prompts a lockdown?

"Typically it's something external to the school, there's a threat. Yesterday we had two lockdowns, one at Ferry Pass Elementary and one at West Pensacola. The one at West Pensacola, law enforcement was in a high-speed chase with an individual that they felt was armed. That individual is gonna travel down the street in front of the school - we're alerted. We immediately do a lockdown. We're trying to change that terminology because we’re seeing that’s upsetting parents, so we’re saying we’re increasing the security level at our school. What that means – we’re gonna lock all the exterior doors – nobody comes in, nobody goes out. It’s a precaution that will protect the children inside the school. Should that individual turn into the parking lot, we’re not gonna have any student exposed to that – if they’re on the playground, we’ll bring them in,” Thomas said.

Supt. Thomas said the threats that are specifically school related are typically generated by students on social media, often not during the school day.

“No matter what time I hear about those, we’re gonna forward those to our law enforcement partners, we’re gonna find out who made the threat, find out if it’s credible, if it’s possible we’ll deal with it during the evening hours but if that threat is one that comes in during school, we’re gonna secure our school, get to the students involved and find out if it has any credibility,” he said.

So far, the only threat that had credibility was the one to Escambia High School that came out right after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

ECSD is working on better communication with parents

Thomas said the school district is trying to accelerate the ability to communicate with parents during a lockdown.

“We’ve seen, with all the anxiety, the cell phones go into operation on our campuses. The students start to text parents and what they’re texting often is not even close to the truth,” he said. “What we’re gonna do, within five minutes of us being notified by law enforcement or our school that we’re gonna increase security, we’re going to make a call to parents. Now, when I say within five minutes, that’s when we initiate. That’s about as fast as these things can happen. First you’ve gotta deal with what you’re dealing with, then you gotta load a piece of software, you gotta record a message and you gotta send it to 2,000 people – and that machine has to send it out to 2,000 residents,” Thomas said.

He said if the address or phone number of the parents isn’t accurate, that will impact how they receive the message.

Parent protocol

Students feed off the reaction of the incident, so he’s asking them not to come to the school to get their child.

“Give us a minute. Most of the time these situations are gonna resolve themselves in just a few minutes of time. Just because we raise security does not mean that there’s an active shooter incident on the campus. What I need you to do for your student is what I try to do as superintendent – somebody’s got to be the calm hand,” he explained. “If the parents can help us by staying calm, let us play this through a moment and get to the end. You may not be inconvenienced by having to leave your job, but we’re going to keep the students safe that is job one,” he said.

Parents may not even be able to get their students during a lockdown. In fact, Supt. Thomas said it could put them in harm’s way and impeding law enforcement and first responders.

“If we’ve raised the security, like yesterday this threat outside the school, no one goes in, no one goes out until that threat has been eliminated. You may actually put yourself in harm’s way by showing up on the campus,” Thomas said.

Watch the full interview - that details the long term effect lockdowns have on students - in our video player:

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