Ever since I was in kindergarten, I can remember practicing both fire drills and tornado drills all the time. The alarm would sound, and like a well-oiled machine we would move to our place of safety. It became second nature for us and we were able to run through the motions effortlessly. I felt safe in the schools when we did this.
For the past twenty years, I have had my own students run through these same drills. Once again, it is almost robotic-like how the children know where to go and what to do. It has always made me feel good to know I can move my students to safety quickly and efficiently.
But a few years ago, things started to change in schools. The number one threat to students was not a fire or a tornado, but an intruder. Worse than a burning building or a school being torn apart by a deadly twister, school shootings have taken center stage. Never in my 37 years being in the public school system did I ever think that there was a higher chance of having an intruder in a school building than a fire or tornado. Unfortunately that day has come.
For the first time in my career, we had a police officer come to our building to conduct an in-service on what to do when an intruder enters the building. Now, for the past few years we have had a system in place in regard to intruders, but we practiced it maybe once a year with students. This workshop opened my eyes to the harsh reality that we are more likely to face an intruder in our building instead of a fire or tornado.
We are now more than just teachers. We are the protectors of our students as well. As in cases such as Sandy Hook, teachers have given their lives to protect their students. How can you, the educator, make sure your students are protected in these scary times. Below is our top 5 list of ways to protect your students.
- Lock all doors.
If your classroom has a door that you can lock, do it! This is the #1 preventative way to keep someone out. If your classroom has adjoining rooms, look those too. An intruder is more likely to not waste time trying to get into a locked classroom.
- Position students away from the door and windows.
If an intruder has a sight line, s/he will take it. Make sure to move students out of view and away from any doors. This will make your classroom appear empty and the intruder may skip over your room.
- Follow the directions set forth by your school district.
Each school district will have their own policy on procedures to follow in case of an intruder alert. Make sure to diligently read those procedures and follow them accordingly. Please make sure to practice as well with your class.
- Arm your students.
No, not with guns or knives. Give each student a ball or something to throw at the intruder if that person is able to enter the room. The students should be instructed to throw items at the intruder right away upon entering. The intruder will not be expecting it, and it will give you a chance to tackle the intruder before s/he can inflict damage. I know it sounds dangerous, but if the intruder has entered your room, it is not going to be good.
- Have all student contact information by your side.
In the event that you have to evacuate your room, and are able to escape to safety it will be all over the news before you end up in a safe place. Your district will probably have a plan for what to do with the students, but if you can contact each parent when you are in a safe zone, that would mean all the world to them to know that their child is safe.
I never thought I would have to be trained on what to do if an intruder enters my elementary school. But I can tell you this, if that time ever comes I will do everything in my power to protect each and every student in my class. I am sure you will do the same.