Locking Down on School Security
October 25, 2019
This year, the fire drill modus operandi will be changing. Instead of everyone going to the baseball field, there will be designated points depending on your location at the school. Mr. Butler’s reasoning for this change is, “That’s a lot of people crossing over the campus, and let’s face it, back at the biology lab down by the river, it does not make sense for them to cross all the way over here to get to the baseball field.”
Mr. Butler mentioned that he likes the San Jose/Whitehurst campus because of the perimeter. It has the river on one side and there is fencing surrounding the area with certain regulated points for entry and exit. The Ponte Vedra and Bartram campuses work in that manner as well. With security guards patrolling the area, all campuses are as secure as possible.
As Head of Security, he is “able to get out to them [the Bartram and Ponte Vedra campuses] at least once a week. Bartram is similar to us [the San Jose campus] in that we have boarders, so pretty much their security there is 24 hours a day.”
Mr. Butler summed everything up with a single line: “I am trying to safeguard the lives of the students.”
A Comparison of High Schools
Bolles lockdown drill protocol has been evolving for over ten years.
Mr. Butler, the new Head of Safety, Security, and Transportation at Bolles, explained, “This isn’t anything that is a secret at all. It impacts all of us and it impacts schools.”Bolles can compare its practices to national best practices. Butler said, “What we impart amongst the faculty here is pretty much the national model when you are talking about active shooters. We are talking about run, hide, or fight.”
“What we impart amongst the faculty here is pretty much the national model when you are talking about active shooters. We are talking about run, hide, or fight.” -Mr. Butler
According to Butler, these steps are interchangeable, and depending on your situation, run might not be the first step.
The Bugle reached out to the Principal of Bishop Kenny and the Principal of Episcopal about their safety procedures regarding an active shooter; they both declined to share current procedures.
Students from those schools shared their memories of safety drills from previous years.
Sydney Ibera, a senior at Bishop Kenny, had her first lockdown drill in her freshman year. According to Ibera, Bishop Kenny has lockdown drills every couple of months. Ibera said, “I do feel safe at all times; there has never been a time where I haven’t.”
Anna Mayo, a senior at Episcopal, has attended Episcopal since the seventh grade. About a month into her first year, she had her first lockdown drill. According to Mayo, lockdown drills occur at Episcopal once or twice a semester.
Mayo explained that her school experienced tragedy. “I was too young to attend Episcopal at the time, but in 2012, our then Head of School, Dale Regan, was killed by a teacher who she let go earlier that day. I have many close friends who went to Episcopal at the time as well as my Godmother who still works there today, so I have heard about that day quite a bit.”
Riya Sawant, a senior at Stanton, had her first lockdown in her second year. She was a sophomore at the time, and someone unsafe was near Stanton’s campus.
Sawant believes the downside of lockdown drills include “people like shooters know [that] there are kids inside. Hiding in a classroom does not give a lot of ways to escape.”
She also dislikes Stanton’s no-phone policy: “It is not the best because I think reaching out to others is important, especially if you are trying to acquire help. I do believe that staying silent is understandable because it does not allow one’s location [to be known].” However, she agrees lockdowns are good practice, allowing students to prepare if something serious was to occur in the future.
Sawant explained that before Stanton had a real lockdown, they had drills about once a year.
Lockdown drills are important to Mr. Butler because he thinks that “you have to have a plan in place. The students in the Upper School obviously watch the news and they hear their parents have conversations.”
If there was to be a real lockdown at Bolles, Mr. Butler recommends, “I would encourage them [teachers] to open up the door and to look outside. If there are students, no matter where the students should be at that time, get them inside the classroom and close it down.”
However, Butler also acknowledges, “This situation would obviously change if you have some type of act happening in the hallway which does not allow them to open the door.”
Different Lockdowns for Younger Kids
Because they are younger, depending on their age, they are usually told about the drills in a different way. Mr. Butler explained, “Really the elementary school teachers can, whether they call it a bear, whether they call it a fire drill, I am okay with [it] because I think with the teachers who are dealing with the younger students they have a bigger responsibility.”
5th grade teacher at the Ponte Vedra campus, Mrs. Strain, reiterated the idea that, “School should be a place where you feel the safest and I feel very confident in how Bolles is keeping our community safe and protected.”
Julia Peiris (‘22) has been a Bolles student since Pre-K at the Ponte
Vedra Campus. Her first lockdown drill was in Pre-K and she remembers the experience as, “They kind of just put a bunch of four-year olds into a bathroom and pretended like it was a game. I don’t think any of us knew what was happening.”
In fifth grade, for Peiris, it was no longer the elementary game. “Previously I was like, ‘Oh, it is just a lockdown drill in case anything bad happens, and we’re all going to get locked into a closet, or something,’ which was cool. But then, in fifth grade or sixth grade, I realized that there are actually bad people.”
Her first drill in middle school had some drama. She described, “We were locked in Ms. Lane’s class. It was my first lockdown in middle school, and we all thought it was real. Ms. Lane had her bat–her softball bat–and we were all sitting in her classroom. [The doorknob moved, so] she had it [the bat] and was about to knock somebody out with it. It turns out it was just Coach Mullings on the other side [of the door].”
“Do lockdown drills cause anxiety?”
“When it comes to the emotional toll, I understand. But, I think it is necessary to go through the lockdown drills and to do those things. Even though I feel confident in our safety and security on the three campuses, we still can’t prepare for anything. By doing the drills, at least we have a plan in place and we know kind of how to react when we have these things.”
– Mr. Butler
“I recall one time there was a shooting nearby and we were on code red and on the intercom the voice sounded very serious, so it made a lot of kids concern and scared and people around me started getting very anxious, some even cried.”
-Riya Sawant, senior at Stanton
“Because my students are older, they are very aware of why we have a lockdown. They hear the news, unfortunately, about school shootings. They are very mature during the drills. I believe as teachers we should let students know that lockdown drills are to keep us safe and to know our routine if any dangerous or unusual situation occurs. That is how we are told to handle the drills. Specifics or exact incidents that could happen aren’t usually shared at this age.”
-Jeni Strain, 5th Grade teacher at the PV campus