Recently, parents at my son's elementary school were informed of a new safety protocol. All classroom doors are to remain locked at all times. The theory behind this measure is that if a teacher doesn't have to fumble to lock a door, precious moments might be saved, should something like the recent Sandy Hook shootings be repeated at my son's school.
When the policy was announced, my first thought was that it does not make children any safer. (I kvetch about that and other safety measures over at www.TheDCMoms.com today.) My second thought about the measure was wondering whether children would actually be less safe. I'm concerned about the straggling kid who unintentionally gets locked out of the classroom, rather than locked in.
I fear this, because I am / was that straggling kid. In the documentary "March of the Penguins", there is a scene where one penguin gets left behind because of its seemingly poor sense of direction and relative slowness. Ultimately, this penguin marches to her death. When we saw this scene together, Ed looked at me and said "that's you". And I agreed. Directionless and late - only because I'm not a penguin, these traits don't generally put my life at risk.
The issue of locking doors was discussed at the PTA meeting (and at least one other woman felt like me - that the straggler was who we needed to worry about, not the bulk of kids already tucked away in a room). But in the end, the principal - whose opinion I trust - thought the current measures were the best measures. So doors remain locked.
Last Thursday, the first "post-lock-your-door-at-all-times" lockdown occurred. There was an armed robbery on a bike trail about a half mile from the school.
And guess whose kid was in the bathroom, and didn't make it into his classroom?
Parents received a note that the lockdown occurred right after recess. Several children were finishing up in the bathroom when the lockdown was announced - "code [some color that I don't know]". So rather than going to their classroom, the art teacher nearby the bathroom shuffled them into her room, and they spent some time in what seemed like a closet / or some sort of passageway.
And though the whole event was deemed a success - "school procedures worked!", I sat at my desk thinking - this is not the way our children should be spending their day. And more than that, I crossed my fingers that my child was not one of the ones left behind because that? That seems like a great way to make a kid feel unsafe. And that is not how I want my kid to feel at school.