School under fire over ‘very real’ lockdown drill

by Heather Jane14 Mar 2016

One primary school’s students were left traumatised after being made to practice hiding from a “bad man with a gun” and a crazed teacher.

Alberton Primary School, located in Adelaide, conducted the drill last Wednesday, in which students were made to hide under desks and create barricades from chairs.

In one scenario, a gunman was on the loose inside the school. In another, a crazed teacher was violently rampaging from classroom to classroom.

A parent told The Advertiser that his six-year-old daughter came home from school “highly distressed and tearful” after the lockdown drill.

“She said it was put to them that they were doing the drill in the event that a bad man with a gun came into the school or if a teacher went bad in the mind,” the father said.

“She said ‘it was very real and I almost wet my pants’.”

Other worried parents are now demanding better communication between schools and their communities over lockdown procedures.

Alberton Primary principal, Andrew Plastow, denied that there were communication issues, saying students were informed of the procedure prior to their lesson.

However, president of South Australian Primary Principals Association (SAPPA), Pam Kent, told The Educator that it was important that schools’ evacuation and lockdown drills were implemented without giving parents and students notice.

“Most schools don’t give their staff notice either,” she said.

“It is important that the drill procedures are followed through without warning for two reasons – to create a situation closer to reality to fully test the effectiveness of the drill actions, and to train staff so they know exactly what to do without studying the policy the night before.”

Kent said the “bottom line” was about safety for students and staff, and in preparing for emergencies at the school site in a manner which is calm and orderly.

“Most parents and students would be aware that lockdown drills are practiced annually in the majority of schools. However, the drill experience may be new to very young students,” she said.

“It is understandable that the young children would be highly anxious and fearful if they were told the explicit reasons for the drill, such as 'there may be ‘a man with a gun in the school yard’.”

Kent suggested it would be wiser to reassure children that the drill actions were necessary to keep them safe, because there “may be someone outside who is very angry and needs to either go away or be calmed down”.

“Parents also need to made aware that drill practice is an annual health and safety requirement in government schools, ideally when they first enrol their children,” she said.
 

COMMENTS

  • by 1098GIG 14/03/2016 12:51:45 PM

    Given a high number of students with diagnosed Anxiety and Autism in our context, drills need to initially be scaffolded from students knowing the day and time of day (to familiarise with signals and procedures) through to those without warning. The purpose of an evacuation / lockdown drill is to check that students and staff can follow the procedures. Doing so with warning does not make the response any less meaningful and has a much better outcome initially as the school community learns how to deal with the signals / procedures / pressures of evacuation and lockdown.