A Letter To Parents: School Safety Drills

A Letter To Parents: School Safety Drills
Posted on 12/14/2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Community Members,

On November 9th, the district held an evacuation and go dismissal drill as a part of our planned practice of emergency safety protocols. We also had a situation where we called a “lockout”while law enforcement addresses a situation off campus, but in the area.

Safety is a top priority for our students and staff and practicing various drills is a critical step in ensuring our students are able to react quickly in the case of an actual emergency, and are practiced and comfortable with emergency plans.

We understand the subject of emergency and emergency response procedures can be equally as uncomfortable for parents as it is for students. As a parent myself, I understand how concerning receiving calls about the school’s response(s) to emergency situations can be. Moving forward, and in an attempt to improve communication on this topic I think it is important to share and define common terms used during an emergency procedure and provide examples of situations where these terms are used..  

Lockdown: A Lockdown is used to secure school buildings and grounds during incidents that pose an immediate threat of violence in and around the school. No one is allowed to enter or exit the building and parents may not come to the school during a lockdown. During a lockdown,  teachers and staff quickly clear hallways, bring students into the classrooms, and classroom doors are locked and secured.

When would a Lockdown occur? Although lockdowns are utilized as a response during an active shooter situation, that is not the only time the procedure is used. Schools might also implement lockdowns for hazards and threats, including:

  • A missing student  

  • A medical emergency  

  • A dangerous animal in the building or on campus  

  • A non-custodial parent who enters a school and attempts to leave with his/her child.

Lockout: A lockout is used to secure school buildings and grounds during incidents that pose an imminent concern outside of the school. Lockouts allow for educational practices to continue with little classroom interruption or distraction, while providing protection from out of school threats. A school in a lockout will keep all students and staff inside the buildings and close the buildings to anyone seeking to enter.

When would a Lockout occur?

  • A dangerous animal near the school

  • A disgruntled parent or community member who could potentially attempt to visit or harm the school

  • An issue requiring law enforcement response in the community or near the school

Evacuation: An evacuation is used to safeguard students and staff when a threat exists in a portion or in the entire building, creating a need to move students from one place to another.  Should students be removed from the building, evacuation is often accompanied by reunification.

Reunification: Reunification is used if it becomes necessary to relocate students and staff from the original school buildings to an alternate location. Students and staff leave and move to a nearby pre-designated safe location and are dismissed to parents or return to the school building after the cause of evacuation is resolved.

When would an Evacuation/Reunification occur?

  • A bomb threat to the school

  • A fire in the school

  • A gas leak or any natural occurrence in or near the building that threatens student safety

Hold-in-Place: A Hold-in-Place is used to limit the movement of students and staff while dealing with short-term emergencies. Outer doors are locked during a hold-in-place but classes continue as normal inside.

When would a Hold-in-Place occur?

  • While addressing a situation in a hallway or specific area of the school (broken pipe, student issue, etc)

  • A crime in progress in a neighboring community

  • Police search or investigation in the same neighborhood as the school, without a direct threat to school

Shelter-in-Place (includes Weather Shelter): A Shelter-in-Place is used to safeguard students and staff when a threat exists outside of the school that demands immediate shelter actions within the school (i.e. tornado response); used to shelter students and staff inside the building.

When would a Shelter-in-Place occur?

  • A winter weather event that would make it unsafe for students to exit or travel from the school

  • A tornado or hurricane

I am also writing to ask that you to take time to speak with your child/children about the importance of our emergency exercises, that they be taken seriously, and that safety and security in Argyle is a responsibility shared by all of us. Please remind your child/children that if they see something in school or on social media that they feel is wrong or concerning related to the safety and security of our students, staff, and school buildings, they should immediately say something to a trusted adult whether a parent, bus driver, teacher, coach, principal,  custodian, etc.

As a reminder, for some children, even participation in a drill may cause some emotional distress, especially if it reminds them of a prior crisis event or if they otherwise are feeling vulnerable or anxious. As a parent, you are in the best position to help your child cope with these feelings. As you know,  it is important for any conversation with a child to be developmentally appropriate.

  • Young children need brief simple information that should be balanced with reassurance. This includes informing children that their school and home are safe (once these are in-fact secure) and that adults are available to protect them. Young children often gauge how threatening or serious an event is by adult reactions. Young children respond well to basic assurance by adults and simple examples of school safety, like reminding them the exterior doors are locked.

  • Upper elementary and early middle school children may​ be more vocal in asking questions about whether they are truly safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Parents can share the information they have about the school's safety plan and any other relevant communication to ease their child's mind.  

  • Upper middle school and high school students may have strong and varying opinions about causes of violence in school and society. Parents can support by stressing the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following the school's safety guidelines (e.g., not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to school safety made by students or community members, etc.).

For more assistance with this, please see resources from the National Association of School Psychologists at https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/talking-to-children-about-violence-tips-for-parents-and-teachers.

Further, please do not hesitate to have direct conversations with our teachers, administrators, and/or counseling staff including our guidance counselor, social worker and school psychologist about how to manage conversations or reactions to these conversations with your children.

Although we hope to never have to use these situations aside from practice and drills, it is important to know that the district will always err on the side of caution to protect our students, staff, and district. We understand in this day and age of social media, messages about emergencies may be posted prior to us contacting you. Please understand that the district’s top priority is to first and foremost perform important safety measures and attend to the safety of our students and staff. We will always provide the most accurate information possible and we will contact parents and guardians as quickly as possible. Thank you very much for your continued support and partnership in working to ensure the safety of your children.