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Talking About Lockdown Drills With Students

Lockdown drills are a necessary part of any good school safety plan. Knowing what to do in an emergency (and having practiced it enough to be able to do it swiftly) will be of great value to your school's preparedness.

However, it's equally important to consider the other things that come with doing lockdown drills, beyond the increased preparedness. For some students, a lockdown drill is a time of anxiety. Of course, they are now a fixture of school life, and so we want to give you some tools to help talk to students about lockdowns both before and after they happen.


Before the Drill

It is tremendously helpful for teachers to have a conversation with their students before a lockdown drill begins. A calm, reasonable explanation of why the school is about to have the drill (or, for younger students, simply how they are expected to behave) can soothe the anxiety of students. Here are a few examples of ways to frame this conversation.

"Just-in-case"- In some ways, this drill is like when you're riding a bike. Why do we wear helmets? You don't expect to fall, but if you do, the helmet protects you! Wearing the helmet allows us to just ride our bikes without even thinking about falling, because we know we have the situation covered. When we practice a lockdown drill, it reminds us that our school has the situation covered.

"Practice means being prepared"- Just like we do fire drills so we know where to go if there was a fire, today we are going to practice how to be safe if there was danger nearby or on campus. Professional athletes practice their skills every day so that they can play their best no matter who they're up against. Practice helps us know exactly what to do, even if we might never have a fire on campus or need to call a lockdown. When we practice, we don't have to worry that we won't know what to do no matter what is happening.

"Listen to an authority figure for safety"- Remember when you were younger, and would run ahead of your parents to the corner? And they probably yelled "STOP!" or "FREEZE!" and you'd wait for them before crossing the street? Well, just like they wanted to make sure you were safe from cars you might not see, sometimes a teacher or administrator might know about something they want to protect you from, too. They might tell us to "Stop!" or even to "hide and wait!" until it's safe, and so we're going to practice doing that.

Obviously, these tools can and should be tweaked to fit the needs and understandings of different grades. Additionally, we always defer to the knowledge of teachers, who usually know just how to connect and deliver a message to the variety of personalities in their classroom.

After the Drill

First of all, be cognizant that some students may need to process their emotions privately after a lockdown drill, whether that be with their teacher or with a school counselor, if available. Be cognizant of students who seem to be having a hard time readjusting to the normal day.

Then, it can often be helpful to guide a discussion about the drill, answering questions and hearing how students feel. A good starting point is to have students discuss or brainstorm ways that safety in the classroom might be improved.

Older students may want to voice their frustrations that they live in a world where they have to do these drills at all. It can be good to acknowledge these frustrations and that tragic events have happened, and to more generally let the class know that this is a community that has each other's back.

 

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