With the wounds from the second deadliest shooting in U.S. history still fresh, it didn’t take long for School District 20 to test its mettle on how it would handle a similar episode.
Mere days after Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Trail Middle School had to contend with potentially dangerous situation of its own.
An angry student had made threats against the school, said SD20 board chair Darrell Ganzert, prompting school administration to quickly implement its Lock Down Policy.
The policy, in place since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, was effective in diffusing the situation he noted.
“Those are the worst nightmares for anybody, and we do what we can. But (that situation) just points out that the drills they do in the schools three times per year pay off in awareness,” he said.
Although Ganzert expected discussion of the Connecticut incident would arise in coming board meetings with further tweaking of the policy, a review after the December incident in Trail and a subsequent debriefing showed the policy was effective.
“It’s taken a number of years for students to understand why they practice it, and how to proceed,” he said. “The drills happen regularly enough that everybody is pretty much aware of what has to happen.”
The policy involves a coded message being sent over the public address system, indicating every teacher would have to immediately lock the doors to their classrooms. The students would then try to seek some safe place, Ganzert explained, typically at a desk or under the desk.
The students would then stay silent in that position and not respond to any noises, answer the door or look if people were rapping on the window.
Then an all clear signal would be given and people would be directed to leave the building.