Do THS Lockdown Procedures Work?


Chang Yoon Kim and Davin Shin

The most recent school shooting at the University of Virginia. The Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in 2012. The Virginia Tech school shooting in 2007. The Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018. The combined death toll of these shootings is 73 students, about the size of three classrooms. Per EducationWeek, in the past year alone, there were 42 school shootings that resulted in injuries or fatalities. Could we have better protected these students? Or better yet, could we have prevented the shooting from happening in the first place? 

According to the most recent federal data, 98% of schools choose to combat school shootings by having lockdown drills. Lockdown drills require teachers to lock all doors that provide accessibility into the classroom and all persons inside the classroom are to find a location to hide from potential attackers. The purpose of lockdown drills is to practice minimizing the damage done by school shooters. Since they are to be implemented during emergency situations, one small mistake could mean the deaths or injuries of many people. Currently, at Tenafly High School, teachers must lock any exterior door that can be used as an entrance into a classroom. Additionally, there is a “Lockdown Emergency Notification System (LENS) at each school [in Tenafly],” according to the Tenafly Public Schools website. “When activated for a lockdown or emergency drill, blue lights flash at each entrance to the associated school(s).” The LENS system will also alert the police.

Still, this procedure isn’t perfect. One flaw with the current lockdown system at THS is the procedure for lockdowns when in the bathroom. In a shooting at Oxford High School, “During the rampage that would leave four students dead and six students and one teacher injured, the killer used a handgun to fatally shoot Justin Shilling, 17, inside a school bathroom.” Another student who was in the bathroom at the same time was “able to run from the bathroom and escape.” At THS, the recommended course of action is to go into the nearest classroom from the bathroom. This only works if one does not get locked out of the nearest classrooms or if one does not encounter the shooter. However, there is a solution better than both of these options, and it lessens the risk of these situations in the first place.

Improving lockdown procedures to minimize those affected by school shootings is a great way to reduce deaths and injuries, but another idea is to reduce the number of school shooting attempts by targeting their root causes. According to a study by Alfred University in New York, revenge, experiences being bullied, and not valuing life are the top three reasons why students decide to shoot their school. This means that we can implement better materials and programs that advocate for self-care and emphasize the importance of mental health in our school. Mrs. Lopes, the Student Assistance Counselor at THS, Ms. Huston, the Clinical Program Manager, and the guidance counselors are examples of people who students can visit in times of need.

In America, it is well known that the process of obtaining guns is easy compared to the processes in other countries. This is why we must implement effective emergency procedures. Through the combination of improving lockdown drill procedures and actively attempting to prevent school shootings, students at THS and other schools will be able to feel safer while receiving a quality education.