Paranoid or Preventative?

Schools Practice Lockdown Drills

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
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It’s a typical day in classrooms across America. Students turn in last night’s homework, take their seats, open their notebooks, and settle in for a lesson in handwriting. Or calculating the diameter of a circle. Or avoiding being shot by a madman.

Schools from elementary to high school are now putting students through “lockdown drills” to rehearse what to do if someone starts shooting up the campus. Some have been practicing like this since Columbine; others only began after the Sandy Hook school massacre in December.

Starshine Roshell

The drills usually begin with a loudspeaker announcement from the principal, after which teachers lock and/or barricade their classroom doors, close any blinds, and instruct their students to huddle in a corner and remain absolutely silent for 10, 15, or even 30 minutes. Sometimes staff members bang threateningly on classroom doors or fire blanks in the hall to add realism. One school had students lay down “dead” with fake blood.

“I cried the first time my son came home and told me about these,” says a friend of mine. “They told him, ‘If you’re in the bathroom or hall when the classroom doors are locked, find somewhere else to hide because the teachers won’t let you in.’ He was 9.”

I’m as fully freaked out by school shootings as anyone else — as we all ought to be. Like you, I read the accounts of Newtown with my hands over my mouth, tears rolling down my face, my mind working futilely to make sense of it.

But is this really where we are as a society? Simulating senseless violence for our kids? If it sickened us that Sandy Hook’s children had to cower and quake in broom closets, then why doesn’t it sicken us to send our kids in there again … “just in case”?

These aren’t the measured, calmly-exit-the-building procedures of a fire drill. They’re the terrified, let’s-pretend-we’ve-got-this-under-control flailings of a duck-and-cover atom-bomb drill. (“Like that would have helped!” recalls a friend who lived through those. “All it did was make us all believe nuclear war was imminent and inevitable.”)

Where’s the line between prudent and paranoid? Between equipped and unhinged? If we put our kids through these preposterous paces, will it guarantee no one else can ever harm them? I’m angry that we’ve let anomalies persuade us to live in fear — and to drape our kids in it.

My friend who works in law enforcement says I’m in denial that these dangers exist. There were, in fact, nine school shootings in the U.S. in 2012, and there have been eight already this year. “I want my kids to feel as if they have a say in their own safety,” he says, “to be courageous, to be able to act.”

I see his point. I spent time learning CPR, though I’ve never had to use it and hope I never will. Our kids learn about safe sex in school and the dangers of drugs. Is this just more modern teen know-how?

I spoke to an 8-year-old girl who said lockdown drills aren’t scary. They make her feel safer “because if somebody actually did it, and we hadn’t practiced, we probably wouldn’t know what to do.”

There’s so much I don’t know about the world after Sandy Hook — so much I obviously didn’t know about the world before Sandy Hook. I’m unsure of how to fix any of it. All I can do is start with what I do know and work backward from there. And what I’m certain of, even in a world where deranged people shoot holes in our certainty every day, is that this small piece of the solution — this teaching our children to put down their pencils and hide from imagined psychopaths in the bunkers that used to be their learning environments — is wrong.

It’s wrong.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This is Post-911, everything that was sacred in now scary and tainted. We now live in a society like that of Israel, where armed terrorists and mad bombers are becoming the status norm, yet we have Congressional leaders telling us, "we will be safe if we turn over our personal protection over our cash-strapped Government", when by the time Police arrive, all they can do is zip up the body-bags. The drills are good to enforce to our children that they live in a world of boogeymen and monsters, that their personal safety is threatened even at their schools and soon in their homes. This in fact re-enforces that the Islamic Terrorist have won, we are a scared and frightened country of each other and everyone else.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2013 at 7:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

dou4now,I do disagree with "we have Congressional leaders telling us, 'we will be safe if we turn over our personal protection over our cash-strapped Government'," implying we all ought to arm up and a la John Tieber [Jackson shotgun thread] just be each our own defender. This is called anarchy.
The second part is a thoughtful response,...and I am mulling this one... When you write "The drills are good to enforce to our children that they live in a world of boogeymen and monsters" I assume you're being sarcastic?
FDR noted that we have only to fear Fear itself: Starshine ends carefully asking why do we have to "hide from imagined psychopaths in the bunkers that used to be their [our students'] learning environments"?
If you ask a knee surgeon for advice about your knee, she will often suggest knee surgery since this is what she does best. If we ask the police, in their anxiety and skill, they may say "armed guards on campus". I believe this is a poor response and fills students and teachers with fear.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2013 at 1:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(Part 1 of 3) I'm with Starshine on this one. I try to be aware of my surroundings and prepared, but just like I didn't turn into an insomniac decades ago when the Bogeyman was the Soviet Union, I'm not going to do it today. Now my 2 cents worth...

I heard the State of The Union address last night, followed by the Republican rebuttal: Both were long on style, short on subtance. It looked like a Saturday Night Live parody where Obama and Rubio were doing their theatrical pitches and of course, talking about guns and the "children", although with the predictably staged applauses of the people in the audience--and the almost equally predictable standing ovations--it was the President, House, and Senate who were acting more like children.

Naturally Sandy Hook and guns came up, and the issue of Hadiya Pendleton--the 15-year-old who performed at Obama's recent inaguaration ceremony and was shot dead by alledged gang members in yet another case of feral agression shortly thereafter was raised and tied in with the gun agenda.

Guns have always been available. Six-shooters have been around as long as I remember and it seems fair for me to say that mass killings certainly were capable of happening in decades past, so clearly something has changed and whether it's gangbangers or "Lone Wolves" killing people, passing more gun laws and telling kids to "duck and cover" isn't going to even come close to solving the problem. Fast forward a little after midnite this morning..

My sister and I were sitting in a fast food restaurant, she has gotten to know some of the workers there so since I get off work late, commute, and don't get home until just after midnite and they close at that time, they are nice enough to let me go in and we (and occaionsally some other locals) hang out and chat until they get done cleaning the grills. I'm there for about 5 minutes and the Sirius Satellite Radio Rap station comes on...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2013 at 7:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(part2 of 3)
My sister and I are certainly no prudes--nor are we strangers to the world of four-letter words but even we were shocked at the violence, hatred of women, and graphic profanity and sexual language of the lyrics. One "song" (it isn't music as chord changes are nonexistant) after another was a continuem of profanity and aggression. It was the actual four-letter words that are the issue, it's the violent context and again, the blatant hatred and to use a feminist term--objectification of women. I have the feature on my phone where I can I.D. songs so I used this and one of the songs was by a rapper--oh excuse me--rap ARTIST called Lil Wayne. I know of him only because just about every time I turn on my computer, he is one of the trending news articles a la the equally fascinating Kardashian sisters. What hit me was that this so-called form of "art" isn't some esoteric entertainment venue, but an accepted part of our society. I thought about "50 cent", another rapper of whom I'm aware only because he's all over the news who's lyrics are also violent. The only reason I didn't say "change the station" is because it was after-hours, and they were nice enough to let us stay. The point is, these are average, nice kids/young adults who consider this to be entertainment. I remember back in the 80's Tipper Gore was bringing attention to violent lyrics and was laughed off her soapbox. Just sayin'.
Arnold Schwartzenegger: Bodybuilder, actor, former California governor. What changed him from being merely famous to iconic?...violent, graphic shoot-em-up movies. Who was his biggest demographic of supporters when he ran for governor?...the male 20-35 group. Do the math.

The "which came first, the chicken or the egg" discussion can lead us into an elliptical argument about whether violence in media causes violence or the demand for violence in the media feeds The Beast of the entertainment industry: Clearly it's both but I'd rather ask "why?" there is such demand for this and what does it say about our society?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2013 at 7:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

While I think the absolute banning of guns on campus is mega-foolish, (think "Virginia Tech Massacre") I also agree that placing armed guards isn't good either---because like gang injunctions, the drug war, or our endless meddling in the Middle East--it doesn't address root causes.

From what I've seen, the vast majority of schoolyard shootings take place on PUBLIC school campuses. Comparative value systems playing out?..

Yes people, the chickens are coming home to roost. The price tag for our societys' lack of standards is hitting us, and this ain't just a comment on religious values, it's an easily-provable thing that can be anthropologically argued from a secular standpoint. Again: The chickens have come home to roost.

There is a song most of the older readers will remember, and I think it hits the nail on the head about our increasing paranoia. It's by Buffalo Springfield and I REALLY recomming you all listed to it. If you're in a hurry, you can click the "show more" box below the video and it will show you the lyrics but the mood of the music really drives the point home.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2013 at 7:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm not familiar with what's happening in the government schools in Santa Barbara, but elsewhere they seem to be transforming into training for prison. Children as young as five are being terrorized, suspended, dragged into police stations, etc. for the most absurdly trivial things that are normal for children to do. They seem to be really ramping this up after Sandy Hook: recently a 5-year old was terrorized and handcuffed to a pipe for bringing in a very crude paper gun — simply a flat sheet of white paper with a section cut out — that her grandfather had made for her while playing a game; a young boy was terrorized and severely disciplined for simulating throwing a grenade (i.e. he actually threw nothing) on the playground while imagining that he was a superhero saving the world; another was suspended for having an image of a gun as a computer screensaver.

Starshine makes a very good point here: "...These aren’t the measured, calmly-exit-the-building procedures of a fire drill. They’re the terrified, let’s-pretend-we’ve-got-this-under-control flailings of a duck-and-cover atom-bomb drill..."

Just like the self-serving political hacks in Sacramento and Washington are doing, these goons are using any justification they can devise to ramp up fear, even in children as young as five years old.

I just did a quick search for some numbers regarding school shootings; here's an excerpt from:
'School Shootings are Less Likely than Asteroid Hits. No, You Don’t Have to Scare Your Kids' at :

"...There is no reason to make a child cry in fear over an event that has a 0.00003% to 0.00007% probability of happening to them. Disagree? Then you’d better warn your kids about asteroid 2012 VE77, which according to NASA scientists has a 0.0009% probability of smacking into the Earth between 2033 and 2035. Let’s be realistic — you are not going to weep in bed and then go tell your kids about the asteroid and make them cry. So why should you weep in bed and then go tell your kids about another risk that is even more remote?..."


DrDan: thanks for the shoutout - really fits in well here. I'll do it for you this time, but next time could you please include the actual link to the post you're referring to — if you know how — so that others can more easily judge for themselves your distortions and gross oversimplifications:

JohnTieber (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2013 at 9:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with Mr. Tieber, we're conditioning our kids to be both submissive and in a constant state of fear. Since many children know longer fear a God as much as love one, the system has to instill some form of threat or perceived danger in the populace to justify it's control and mechanisms. Basic governing principle, taken to many different extremes ethically and morally throughout history.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2013 at 10:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Interesting that the spectrum runs from evangelical Christians to old hippies who are pulling their kids out of government indoctrination centers...I mean public schools and homeschooling them.

Meanwhile, Johnny still can't read.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 1:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

gee, JT, I couldn't figure out how to make that link, thanks for doing it for all of us.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 9:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's called psychological warfare, it is sick, and statists love wielding their power over the children of our country.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
March 7, 2013 at 4:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I hope Starshine did not write the fake word in the headline here.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 7:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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