• Frequently Asked Questions About School Crises

    School bells on our campuses ring at the same time every day, but no two school days are exactly alike. In our uncertain world, there may be times when situations jeopardize the safety of our students and staff members. That’s when our systematic training and practice proves invaluable.

    We’re prepared because the safety of both our students and others on our campuses is a principle upon which we will never compromise.

    Emergencies come in different shapes and sizes — some big, some not so big. We prepare for them all! For example, schools are required by law to hold a fire drill every month. We also train for weather emergencies. However, you won’t necessarily receive messages from us about those exercises.

    Each of our schools must develop and maintain a unique, confidential, state-mandated crisis plan. These plans are annually updated with guidance from district staff members, as well as officials who work in emergency management but not limited to law enforcement, medical personnel, fire crews and first responders. Crisis plans cover a variety of emergency situations and act as playbooks for administrators, teachers and emergency responders.

    Not every emergency requires the assistance of law enforcement. A student getting overheated while on the playground, for example, would have us calling the paramedics, not the police.  

    On the other hand, we’d call law enforcement upon hearing reports about, for example, about an armed individual approaching one of our schools. That would initiate our protocol for lockdowns.

    What is a lockdown?

    A lockdown is precautionary measure in response to real or perceived threats. Depending on the threat at a school, its doors may be locked and law enforcement may establish a secure campus perimeter. Only authorized personnel would be allowed to enter or exit the school in this type of situation.

    What is a hard lockdown?

    Hard lockdowns are put in place when there is a real or perceived threat near a school. During such instances, everyone would seek shelter as directed.

    What is a soft lockdown?

    Soft lockdowns may be put in place when danger exists near a school. For example, law enforcement could be in the area searching for a suspect. During soft lockdowns, schools are locked to the outside world while the building operates normally inside.

     How will I know if my child’s school is on lockdown?

    Once a lockdown is established, law enforcement and school administrators will collaborate to ensure the safety of everyone at the school. Unless directed otherwise by law enforcement, we’ll initiate contact with stakeholders as soon as possible. Please be aware that there could be times when we have to delay messaging.

    When will I receive a message following a lockdown?

    Expect to hear about a lockdown after the appropriate emergency responders have been notified. We’ll promptly let you know as much as we’re able to share. Situations like this tend to develop rapidly, so we may be short on details. Please know that we will always be committed to transparency in our messaging.

    Why didn’t I receive a message?

    Making sure all of your contact information is up to date is the best way to hear from us quickly. Please call your student’s school and verify your phone numbers and email addresses before an emergency occurs.

    May I pick up my student from school?

    During a lockdown, your student’s school is a secure area. School officials and law enforcement will be working together to keep everyone safe. No one will be allowed beyond the crisis-response perimeter established at the school. It may make a situation more dangerous if nonessential personnel come to the school.

    Will someone answer the phone when I call the school office?

    During lockdowns, the priority for school personnel is safeguarding both students and others on the school campus. Schools will not have personnel assigned to answering phone calls from the general public. School phones and cellphones will be dedicated to communicating with emergency responders. Withholding phone calls helps reduce telecommunication traffic and ensure that these critical conversations can occur.  

    Besides lockdowns, what about crises (off-campus deaths, bomb threats, aggressive animals, etc.)?

    The training provided to our students and staff members equips them to respond to various emergencies in an orderly manner that promotes safety for everyone on our campuses. Students learning to follow the orders of trained adults during, say, a controlled fire drill develops the proper mindset to follow suit during, for example, a tornado.   

    Where can I find resources for coping after crises?

    Even with the training we provide, emergency situations such as lockdowns can be traumatic for students and adults alike. Contact your child’s counselor for support resources.