For over two decades, lockdown drills have become a typical part of the public school experience. Since the tragedy at Columbine high school and September 11th, many school systems across America have been teaching children what to do in the event of potential danger. While we can all agree that keeping our country safe is a priority, many people disagree on whether or not certain safety precautions are unnecessary. With the most recent threats in LA and New York, we should all ask a question that has remained unanswered for quite a while: is there such a thing as being “too safe”?
On December 15th, it was reported that both the Los Angeles and New York City school systems received emails of possible terrorists threats. Although it was later confirmed to be a hoax, the threats were responded to very differently by the two school systems. Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the Los Angeles school district, explained that the “Los Angeles schools commonly get threats”. However, “’It was not to one school, two schools or three schools’, he said at a news conference. “It was many schools, not specifically identified. But there were many schools. That’s the reason I took the action that I did … It was to students at schools.’” Although Cortines cancelled classes in order to protect students, William Bratton, the police commissioner for NYC stated that Cortines decision was “a significant overreaction.” The mayor of NYC also claimed “these threats are made to promote fear…we cannot allow up to raise the levels of fear.” As a result, the New York City public schools remained in session.
While some may agree that cancelling school for a fake threat was unnecessary, there is no doubt our society is on edge when it comes to violence. According to The New York Times, it is estimated that in 2015 alone, “a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks this year, many of which occurred on streets or in public settings”. The fact that so many of these attacks occur in public places definitely raises some concern. Obviously, the majority of us are still able to go to school or work and come home safely at the end of the day, but there is always a chance we might be faced with a life -threatening situation. However, with so many acts (and potential acts) of violence occurring lately, placing buildings on lockdown is the best idea, even if it turns out that the threats were harmless.
Despite the fact that a new year is upon us in several weeks, we all know that this will not put an end to public violence, especially mass shootings. What we can do, is make sure we know what needs to be done if we are in caught in the middle of potential violence. Judith Prager, co-author of the book Verbal First Aid: Help Your Kids Heal From Fear and Pain–And Come Out Strong, suggests that practice can be a crucial part of staying safe in the event of danger. Prager notes that practicing active shooter situations or lock down drills “creates a program in your mind that then runs itself in a time when thinking could be frozen by fear…The bad thing may never happen, but when we’re practiced in protecting ourselves, then we don’t have to worry that we won’t know what to do.” Although the threats sent to the LA public schools did not possess any real danger, cancelling classes was a smart choice because it allowed families to practice what would happen if these threats became a reality. This “lockdown” was so crucial because it gave parents the opportunity to talk to their children about safety tactics, such as staying with a neighbor that they trust if they cannot get in contact with their parent or caregiver. If you have time over this upcoming winter break, make sure you discuss tips like this with your families. Being involved in violent events are terrifying enough, but becoming proactive and having a plan already in place, can help students and parents feel calmer in the event of a tragedy.
This article was written by Kim Dilisio, a writer for dusk magazine.