Should schools tell parents when there are lockdowns?

UPDATED at 11 p.m. Wednesday

I asked a few days ago whether schools are under reporting violence or threats of violence. I cited a note that I had received from a knowledgeable source that Atlanta Public Schools had failed to alert parents to lockdowns at Grady High School and the New Schools of Carver, and that the incidents exposed a troubling lack of coordination between APS and Atlanta Police.

Not everyone agreed that parents needed to be notified.

One Grady parent posted: Terrorist threat – really? I worked as part of the safety and security parent/teacher counsel at Grady so was privy to more than just parent hearsay. Anyone aware of the location of Grady is aware that being in Midtown poses unique situations –  that the street crime of breaking into cars can have the miscreant running from the cops and ducking into the parking lot of Grady to run through/get to the other major cross road. Mid-day, broad daylight and not the brightest bulb for a criminal. Because of that situation, not because of a terrorist threat, the school rightly went into security mode. It was handled by all staff and police in a quiet and calm manner, I happen to be there inside the school and outside when it happened. My middle school son was waiting in the car for me- nothing about the situation raised my concern, nothing inside the school raised concern. It was just that it happened to overflow into school territory and the school officials had to take precautions. I don’t know where you heard terrorist threat from but please stop making it sound as if Grady High School is anything but what it is- an urban high school.

But here is the official response from APS as to what happened to provoke the lockdowns at Grady and New Schools of Carver, an account that differs from what the parent at Grady described. From APS spokesman Keith Bromery:

I am informed that in both cases calls were made from inside of these schools indicating that someone would be shot.  In both instances, the schools were locked down for brief periods at mid-day while the threats were assessed by Atlanta Police Department and APS officials.  It is the equivalent of a bomb threat.  The situations were seamless to students as they happened during the regular school day while they were in class.  The district does not routinely announce that these types of threats have happened because of the tendency of some people to emulate (copycat) these activities, especially when there was no disruption to the normal school day, such as delaying dismissal or the start of classes at the beginning of the day.

UPDATED at 11 p.m. Wednesday: I sent another e-mail asking  Bromery if there was a policy to alert parents to lockdowns.

He responded:

We inform parents/guardians of events on a case by case basis, depending on the impact of the specific incident.  In these cases, the incidents were seen as minor and of short duration with minimal impact on students and staff.  By the way, these were described as “soft lockdowns,” meaning that people were permitted to enter and leave the campuses on a monitored basis during the duration of the lockdowns. Additionally, I am advised that it was neighborhood rumors that sparked the phone calls that led to the lockdowns and that the calls did not necessarily come from within the two campuses.

The bottom line for me — parents should have been told.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

37 comments Add your comment

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 30th, 2011
4:10 pm

Forget about reporting lock-downs. How ’bout reporting incidents of sexual harassment, sexual battery and rape to the appropriate parents and to the respective local sheriffs’ departments?

And, folks in Cobb County: got a problem there? Notify Major Roland Craig of the CCSO and see what happens.

Samantha

November 30th, 2011
4:13 pm

Yes. Schools should tell parents when there is a lock down. So I can pick up my child from school!

Good Mother

November 30th, 2011
4:15 pm

I agree with Dr. Craig Spinks. If there is a lock-down at a school, we’ll hear about it on the news. The other events, sexualy harassment, sexual battery and rape and other violence and threats of violence should be legally required to report to parents.

I get a crime report in my local neighborhood newsletter. The facts are from the police department. It lists the address and describes the crime such as at 123 Street, car broken into, owner reported GPS and such and such stolen.

We should be legally required to get the same type of facts from our children;s school such as “Teacher reported seeing two children fist fighting on the playground at 11:30 March 1st. One suffered bruises. The other child has no visible wounds.

A run down of all of those incidents should be required by law and teachers and all employees should be required to report them.

Just Wondering

November 30th, 2011
4:18 pm

All colleges now inform students with email or texts of incidents on campuses. K-12 should be no different.

carlosgvv

November 30th, 2011
4:22 pm

Do you really think that threats of violence, sexual harassment and battery, rape and lockdowns are going to be publicly reported? Because of the current level of political correctness, this will not happen. If it did, Jesse Jackson and others would be here yelling “racism” faster than you could say “civil rights”.

btc

November 30th, 2011
4:45 pm

If it is a lock-down, can parents pick up their children? I thought it was a lock-down! You mean, people can come and go in and out the building?

Poor Boy from Alabama

November 30th, 2011
5:25 pm

Parents entrust schools with the safety of their children. They have every right to be informed of any and all threats, including false alarms, to the safety and well being of students. The communications should include what steps the school and/or others took to resolve the situation. Parents should also be told about future actions (if appropriate) to minimize the chances of something similar happening in the future.

Ron

November 30th, 2011
6:22 pm

Good mother, you would really want every fist-fight (as if there we so many) on the playground reported? Let’s not turn all this into hysteria either.

say what?

November 30th, 2011
7:35 pm

Samantha, a lock down is just that no one in no one out because of the possible or valid threat outside the school building.
A few years ago a school in DeKalb was on lock down because a body was found across the street. Turned out the body had been there several days, but the principal was still required to send home a letter.
Also schools do call for a Lock Down of the building when doing a sweep of the building for drugs and contraband. That way the students do not have time to move their contraband from one hall to another or take them to the bathrooms, or leave the building with the illegal wares.

@ Ron

November 30th, 2011
7:52 pm

Don’t feed the Good Mother troll.

Linda

November 30th, 2011
8:30 pm

Parents need to be informed because it is their children in the middle however parents need to be involved in their schools to know what is going on. It is hard to cover up when there are concerned relatives or witnesses on campus. Too many things in the school in the Atlanta Metro area are covered up or transfered out to another school so the school district does not “look” bad. Also if there were more unannounced visits by upper school adminstration instead of announced ones official can see the problems example the school where my child attends eats in the cafeteria with dirty mop buckets, roaches in the vending machines and cutodians chemicals to clean with setting around yet when they know an official is coming out wow is it ever clean

another comment

November 30th, 2011
10:03 pm

parents should be notified of lockdowns, of fights, of rapes, etc.. They should also be told of the number of kids that are caught with drugs. I think it would be a real wake up call to some about the number of white upper and upper middle class kids that are caught and suspended for pot, prescription meds. But of course their are cases when Daddy hires a lawyer and claims the drugs were found in his car, so they were his not JR’s to save Jr.’s college future.

The upper SES kids were popping Ambien and trying to fight it off the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at Lunch. Then realizing they may have done too much ran out to the hall to vomit. Another girl was drinking from a flask in her purse, and visably bringing the purse up to her mouth all during lunch period. A good deal of these kids have been kicked out of the $20K a year private schools, or the parents couldn’t come up with the payments anymore.

I have heard the line over and over again “My husband wanted to try the public school this year, but I wasn’t in favor of it”. Then it comes out that the 9th grader had been arrested in Sea Side for Mary Jane poss. and the private school found out and didn’t want them back.

Atlanta mom

November 30th, 2011
10:26 pm

In a meeting last night, Errol Davis stated that a robo call went out concerning the incident at Grady. He also stated that phone trees are obsolete as soon as they are printed. Considering how often a school nurse can not make contact with a parent, I’m not surprised folks did not get the call. Mr. Davis also suggested parents check with the registar to be sure phone numbers were accurate.

Tony

November 30th, 2011
10:31 pm

We had to lock down our school last year and I notified parents. We are a rural school and a man was fishing at a nearby pond. He saw a snake and got his pellet gun out of his truck. A well-meaning passerby saw a man with a gun and called 911. The 911 center notified us that “a gunman was seen running in the woods near the school” and that we should take appropriate action. So we did. We were locked up tight within a matter of seconds. The kids were all safe. I don’t know how the snake fared.

Atlanta mom

November 30th, 2011
10:34 pm

Maureen,
When should parents be told? As the event is happening or in a book bag at the end of the day, or on the school website after the event is over?

Libby

November 30th, 2011
10:34 pm

No need to call the parents of middle or high schoolers…they will text their parents before the official announcement is made.

Lynn43

November 30th, 2011
10:43 pm

How many of you are willing to pay the increased taxes necessary to pay for extra employees to report every little incident?

Maureen Downey

November 30th, 2011
11:05 pm

@Atlanta, The timing can be debated, but certainly within a day. I just added a response from APS on its policy of when it alerts parents. Seems fuzzy to me. I would argue that parents should be told of every lockdown.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

November 30th, 2011
11:07 pm

@Atlanta mom, Not sure that is the case as the statements from the spokesman don’t seem to align with what Davis said. The spokesman is saying that notification did not occur in this case. I was told by an APS staffer that the parents were not notified at the time. Any APS Grady or Carver parents out there get a call two weeks ago about this?
Maureen

Beverly Fraud

December 1st, 2011
12:14 am

How about, when an APS student physically assaults a student, NOT an uncommon occurrence in APS THAT parent is notified that a TRIBUNAL hearing be held within ten days to see if the child is to remain in that school?

You know, as per state LAW.

How about APS’s habit, so ingrained it’s almost standard operating procedure, of putting a teacher on a PDP after insisting their rights be protected in the case of a student PHYSICALLY assaulting a teacher.

THAT is what Errol Davis needs to address.

THAT is the violence that’s being HIDDEN and it happens on a REGULAR basis.

Demarious

December 1st, 2011
12:16 am

Since many of these kids will eventually be incarcerated anyway they may as well get used to lockdowns.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

December 1st, 2011
2:40 am

BF,

What a damn shame!

But don’t think such retaliation for a teacher’s reporting
a personal assault is unique to the APS.

Have you made your concerns known to Doc Trotter(theteachersadvocate@bellsouth.net)?

My experience has been that some folks will mistreat one as badly as one allows. Of course, remember that biting-dog administrators don’t like to have hands gnawed off in return.

Buzz144

December 1st, 2011
7:42 am

Yet one more reason we need school vouchers which will allow us to send our children to the best schools available, not just the ones run by the government. Many of these children are prisoners in their schools, unable to get out of poorly run institutions. They will be handicapped for life having been forced by government to go through these Soviet style institutions.

Pluto

December 1st, 2011
8:08 am

But if these lockdowns are reported how is admin going to be able to keep a smiley face on everything?

Gwinnett Parent

December 1st, 2011
8:28 am

Let’s see….We have administrators trying to sweep potential problems under the rug. The problem is enhanced, because so many parents have to work to make ends meet and cannot be on top of the schools 5 days a week. Then our teachers have been trained to teach, but that is lost because their college curriculum forgot to require training in martial arts or severe crisis management. I love that we send our police officers into similar situations with a back up team, weapons, and specialized training. However, our teachers are required to to respond within seconds to a classroom assault or physical threat armed soley with their master degrees in early childhood education, mathematics, or whatever field they teach. Should we require our teachers to have a military background and push them into retirement when they become physically unble to take down a student twice their size within 20 seconds or less? Being a teacher with years of experience, a love of teaching, and an expert in the field is not good enough anymore. We need to make sure our public school teachers have a background in the special forces before they are offered any teaching position.

If the parents are not aware of events happening in the war zone A.K.A. public school, how can they decide whether or not to send their children into battle or save up private school?

Grady parent

December 1st, 2011
9:08 am

I was working at the college and career center the day of the lockdown at Grady High School. Another of our volunteers was actually signing in at the office when the call came in. As an involved and concerned parent, I believe the school’s actions in putting the campus on a soft lockdown was appropriate. The halls were cleared and we were advised to lock the doors to each room and keep the students inside while security officials and staff searched the school. Classwork went on as usual – and the students did not seem to be unduly upset. As the incident occurred during the last period of the day, classes were not interrupted and students were released without incident at the final bell. I certainly believe it is advisable for the school to send an accurate alert to parents at the conclusion of the incident as the rumor mill generates inaccurate and generally far more alarming reports than dissemination of the truth. When I asked my daughter why she thought there had been a lockdown that day, she told me with great certainty that one student had slashed another student’s face with a knife. Of course, this was not the truth – but had I not been present through the actual event, I would never have known that. And, as for the vouchers somehow being a way to protect your children – I attended a large, expensive upper middle class Christian high school in the 1970’s and I remember several times having to evacuate classes because of bomb threats and the pulling of fire alarms. Seems neither money nor religious classes can keep students from trying to find ways to disrupt the school day. . .

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2011
9:14 am

@Grady parent, Did you get a robo-call explaining what had happened?
Another poster says Superintendent Davis told a community meeting this week that such a call went out, but the system spokesman said parents were not notified in this instance. (That is also what I was told by someone in APS.)
Maureen

V for Vendetta

December 1st, 2011
9:26 am

Maureen,

I missed the previous blog on this topic, but I had a brief story to share. I had a student a few years ago who had punched out a student the previous year, attempted to flee, and then verbally abused the administrations and police who arrested him and took him away. After being gone for a year, the student returned–only to punch a girl. Now that student is receiving homebound instruction, all at the expense of the taxpayer and teachers’ time. I have heard that he might be returning again next semester.

But you’ve never heard about this, and you never will.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

December 1st, 2011
9:32 am

It may be better to lockdown some schools on a 24 hour basis thereby preventing these children from being subjected to the homelife they dont have.

Grady parent

December 1st, 2011
11:28 am

Maureen – To be honest, I don’t recall receiving a robo call, but someone else at my home could have answered and because I already knew of the incident it wasn’t something I was looking for. I will check with my family to see if anyone recalls getting a call. I know that they have our number, as we often receive robo calls from the school system.

Once Again

December 1st, 2011
1:09 pm

Lock-down – a prison term that applies equally well to the government prisons for childen (aka the public schools).

Man, how can you contine to send your kids to these places?? I mean, they are your children !

student

December 1st, 2011
1:36 pm

Parents being notified DURING a lock down would result in chaos. I’m sure most students mention the lockdown once they get home if it was a serious issue anyway. Notifications during the lockdown would just cause hundreds of parents banging on the school doors to come pick up their precious baby…making it hard to keep the campus safe if there was an actual threat.

gamom

December 1st, 2011
2:45 pm

School is a Governmental Entity and in the spirit of transparency – the school should ALWAYS alert parents. Period. If they can’t manage to give a parent the courtesy of what is going on, how can we inform our kids, how can we keep them calm, how can we have honest discussions with our kids if the school can’t be honest either?

Ron

December 1st, 2011
6:49 pm

On this subject, as with many in public education, let’s make sure we don’t create knee-jerk policies and procedures based on hysteria. It would be wise to listen to school administrators first as to their professional views.

Ole Guy

December 2nd, 2011
1:41 pm

Lockdown…a term which smacks of “big people” stuff. Before we start worrying about these issues, howbout we start with the BASICS, like treating these kids LIKE THE BIG PEOPLE THEY”RE GOING TO BE IN A VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. To even contemplate the issue of lockdowns, within an environment completely and totally devoid of DISCIPLINE AND CONSEQUENCE, is moot…in other word, it don’t mean a damn thing.

In an earlier time, behavior which would…some 40-odd years later…warrant a “lockdown” would simply result in a few sixes being warmed up. Then it’s back to class, sit down, and on with the process known as EDUCATION.

This “lockdown” crap is indicative of the sad reality that even the powers that be cannot stay focused on the primary reason…the reason de etre…for their being there…THEIR JOB. Many out there have suggested that Ole Guy may be out of touch with reality, that somehow, kids today are different from kids of previous gens. I’ve got a news flash…THEY’RE ONLY AS DIFFERENT AS LAZY, SCARED PARENTS AND THE LAZY SCARED EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT ALLOWS.

Any questions?

Curious

December 2nd, 2011
3:44 pm

@ Ole Guy. Yes. Do you understand what a school lockdown means? All the classroom doors are locked, and all the school doors are locked, so that the OUTSIDER who has a gun cannot come in and shoot up the room or the school.

Sandra Monroe

December 7th, 2011
11:58 am

A potential lock down situation occurred at Coretta Scott King on 6 December. I learned about the situation because various students called their parents and one parent called me. I called the school and was told that it was not a big issue and was being handled, they took my number. I received a call back 15 minutes later and was told that everything was under control but at the same time I received a text from my granddaughter indicating the school was surrounded by police with dogs. I went to the school to speak with my granddaughter and saw and spoke with the police officers outside the school. The girls had been outside at that point as well and had obviously seen the officers. I asked to speak with my granddaughter and when I saw her, she was so panicked that I signed her out and took her home. Several other parents did as well. She was panicked because she saw police and bomb dogs but was told it was a routine fire drill. After the fact, I heard nothing more about the incident and was concerned because I read all the time about bomb threats and lockdowns concerning schools in other school systems. I do think that parents should be told when a school is or was on lock-down and more importantly, students ought to be informed of what’s really going on.