Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Knowing the drill

First, there were fire drills. Then, there were bomb drills. Now, my kids are having lockdown drills. Can barbed wire be far behind?

Actually, the one bomb drill I know of was in response to an actual phoned-in bomb threat that emptied all the schools in a two-city area. Other security changes at the school have been in response to the general paranoia caused by Sept. 11. These include all the teachers and staff at the school wearing photo ID cards on very attractive burgundy-colored cords around their necks. It makes me feel even more conspicuous as a parent as I move through the halls on my way to meetings or library duty; ID-less, I half expect lights or sirens or big ugly dogs to impede my progress at any moment.

The lockdown is the latest, and it's in reaction to a relatively long-ago traumatic disaster, the shootings at Columbine. It started with the principal going from classroom to classroom explaining about school shootings, always a good way to help kids relax and concentrate on their work. He must have made an impression, because my daughter did at least bring home a fragment of the information, and my son screamed the word "Lockdown!" repeatedly for most of the rest of the day after his class got the talk.

The actual drill came last week, and as far as I was able to gather, it involved the locking of each individual classroom door and the hiding of children under tables. Takes me back to my own youth, when we got under our desks to hide from atomic bombs. Sadly, the likelihood of shooters in today's school is higher than bombs were in mine; happily, shooters are unlikely to remove our entire town and everything around it from the map.

So now, in addition to math facts and grammar rules and historical dates, kids have to learn and remember their drills. In case of fire, leave the building and line up outside. In case of bomb, leave the building and line up way, way outside, along the fence or on the sidewalk or across the street. In case of roving gunmen, lock the door and get under the table. And in case of roving parents, call security, quick!

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