Understanding School Safety Procedures After the Sandy Hook Tragedy

By Artur Radetskiy

The recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut has led many members of the Tech community to contemplate student safety at 29 Fort Greene Place. Although it is highly unlikely, there are plans and procedures in place to deal with such a situation.

Furthermore, it is clear that the administration is taking extra safety measures. Shortly after the tragic event in Sandy Hook, laminated posters appeared in all classrooms instructing students and teachers on safety procedures for different scenarios, including a fire, shelter-in, and lockdown.

As students enter the building through the center west side entrance, School Safety Agents look on.
As students enter the building through the center west side entrance, School Safety Agents look on.

If there is a threat inside the building, a lockdown occurs and is announced to students and teachers via the PA system. There are two types of lockdowns: a soft lockdown and a hard lockdown.

In a hard lockdown, students and teachers are to remain inside the classroom. Teachers must lock the door and turn off the lights, while students remain quiet and are encouraged to turn off their cell phones and other electronics. “If a student uses their cell phone,” Level 3B School Safety Agent Cora, the supervisor of the School Safety Agents at Tech, said, “then the sound might alert the person of where you are.”

A soft lockdown is similar to a hard lockdown, except it is meant to protect students and faculty against and unarmed intruder. In a hard lockdown, the threat is someone in the building with a weapon. A soft lockdown, however, occurs when, according to Dean Jackie Manduley, “the threat is just an unwanted guest without a weapon. It could be an angry parent.”

A third safety procedure, called a shelter-in, also exists. This procedure is used when the threat is outside the school. The main goal of this drill is to keep students in the school and away from the danger outside.

On December 20th, Tech conducted a shelter-in after receiving a report that there might have been someone outside the school with a weapon. The teachers and safety agents kept all students inside the school until it was safe to come outside.

Whether there is a lockdown or a shelter-in, the school calls the police immediately. The police then come to the school to deal with the threat. Although the safety agents “are the first line of defense,” as stated by Level 3B School Safety Agent Cora, they are not armed and therefore are not fully equipped to deal with someone with a weapon. After the police have deemed the school safe, the lockdown or shelter-in is over and students and teachers continue with their day.

Although there are procedures in place, most students do not know how to handle these situations because they have not performed any drills for them.

“I honestly don’t know the exact thing to do,” Steven Guo ’14 said, “but I know there is a procedure.”

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