Part IV: Motivating and Managing a Diverse Group of Learners
Chapter 9: Theories of Motivation and Affect
Chapter 10: Motivation and Affect in the Classroom
Chapter 11: Classroom Management: Creating a Successful Learning Environment
Lockdown. The Worst Counterterrorism Plan Your School Can Have.
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Note: In anticipation of this report, I have avoided all media coverage of the shootings in Chardon, Ohio. My intent is to write my analysis of the sociopsychology of typical school lockdown policies prior to Chardon, and then to analyze how my theory is applicable to the Chardon case, if at all.
My understanding of typical school lockdown procedure is thus. Any staff member can initiate a lockdown by notifying some central office personnel. That office personnel notifies a superior officeholder according to chain of command. The person in command then orders lockdown. Once lockdown is ordered, all doors in the building are locked. No one can get in or out. Children are escorted by teachers to some predetermined location in the classroom where the children get down on the floor. Children who are unable to get inside a classroom get down on the ground, such as those on a playground, wherever they happen to be standing at the time lockdown is called. No one enters or leaves the building until the all clear is given by law enforcement. Typically, once lockdown is called, the entire school remains on lockdown until the appointed hour for school leaving.
One school’s procedure can be read here: http://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/1917/270285/Lockdown-Procedure-Revised-September-8-2011-
I have been highly critical of school lockdown procedures since they became universally adopted following 9-11. Ohio schools are now mandated to practice a minimum of one “intruder alert” per year. Many schools across the country have been mandated to develop counterterrorism response plans, and it seems that most schools have chosen “lockdown” as their counterterrorism planning. I find “lockdown,” a procedure developed to contain prison riots, to be inappropriate for dealing with schools. Additionally, I feel that lockdown procedures are exactly what one should not do as part of a counterterrorism strategy. Lockdown procedures place students at greater risk to violence in the schools than no procedure at all. Given the knowledge the general public has of guerilla warfare, through our national experience fighting guerilla wars in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, the Mexican drug war, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, there is absolutely no excuse for our public school boards to pretend that lockdown procedures are effective for keeping students safe during a terrorist attack.
A guerilla assault happens like this. Guerilla fighters attack a standing encampment, in our case, a school, inflicting as much damage as possible before retreating. Modern day guerillas in many cases that we see in Iraq, occupied Palestine, Europe and elsewhere, forego the retreat, employing instead suicide missions. School shooters have been found to be similar to suicide bombers in their motivation, revenge and fame, as well as psychological pathologies. Assaults on schools tend to follow the pattern of the suicide guerilla. I do not know of a single case in recent history that an assault on a school did not occur as a planned suicide mission. Therefore, we can see that locking the school down, to prevent the escape of the attackers is unnecessary. Lockdown is an appropriate public safety measure to take in a prison, where the general public is placed at risk by the prisoners escaping from the prison; however, the public is not placed at risk by school children escaping from a building under attack by terrorists.
A school is a soft target because excepting security guards or police officers in the school, school staff and students are unarmed. Largely, they are not combat-trained. The few individuals inside the K-12 school setting who are combat-trained, for example, military veterans, are in the extreme minority. By law, even combat-trained individuals inside a school are forbidden to arm themselves, as Ohio law prohibits concealed weapons on school property. It is not reasonable to expect school staff or students to engage paramilitary attackers in combat; therefore, it is extremely reasonable to expect them to flee the combat zone.
I would say that it is their human right to flee the combat zone. Students do not leave their rights at the schoolhouse door, and their right to flee the scene of armed combat is violated by lockdown procedures. But argument is beyond the scope of this essay.
A typical school is designed with many points of egress, including points not intended for that purpose, such as windows. It makes more sense for teachers to encourage students to flee the building than to remain inside the building where they remain targets. Proponents of lockdown claim that locked classroom doors will ensure the safety of students inside. This is foolish and stupid. Doors are not impervious to weapons. Upon classroom doors being opened, all the students inside the classroom are vulnerable to attack. Lockdown creates a scenario where hundreds of people are sitting ducks. If a paramilitary group entered a building where lockdown was successfully initiated, terrorists would only need systematically to open classroom doors one by one in order to successfully execute nearly 100% of the building’s occupants in a very organized manner. Since lockdown is designed for prisons, by its design, it makes occupants of the building on lockdown more vulnerable to attack than from outsiders. Lockdown is designed to make the prisoners easier to subdue. Lockdown in schools makes a very large number of people easier to subdue… by the attackers already inside the school!
Furthermore, once a building is placed on lockdown, persons inside the building are extremely vulnerable to attacks by fire or chemical weapons. The simplest form of chemical weapons attack, using chlorine gas, is readily available to individuals with no training in chemistry. Once the building is placed on lockdown, it does not take a lot of skill or manpower to gas an entire school, especially in the newer buildings that do not contain windows that open in many rooms. Furthermore, once students are locked down in classrooms, one needs nothing more sophisticated that some gasoline and a box of matches to burn everyone alive, once the sprinkler system has been disarmed.
I am not a terrorist, nor am I the most brilliant person on earth. I am trying to point out that lockdown procedures, while providing a false sense of security, they actually place our community at greater risk. This is exactly what happened at the Luby’s in Texas where the attacker drove his truck into the front of the restaurant and systematically executed diners in the event that was the largest mass murder on civilians perpetrated by one individual in American history until 2007. Some people in that restaurant did manage to escape out the back door with their lives. Why would we prevent our school children even that chance?
Your greatest chance of surviving a terrorist attack on a school is to get out of the school. Advice the U.S. Marine Corps gives to families of Marines for escaping a terrorist attack is, “If the scenario is an armed attack or assassination attempt, get out of the kill zone. Typically terrorists have a relatively narrow window of time and may have restricted fields of fire due to obstacles in their path. Once you exit the kill zone, terrorists will rarely pursue you since they must begin their own escape and evasion plan.” See: http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/mcrp302e.pdf I can cite hundreds of expert opinions based on analysis of prior terrorist attacks and prior school shootings, but really, isn’t this just common sense?
Prior to lockdown procedures being implemented, persons planning an attack on a school could expect mass chaos to ensue among students and faculty. Attackers could not predict how their victims would respond. Since schools have so many people inside of them, and each individual person in the school will respond in an unpredictable way, in order to maximize damage to the school, attackers would need to attempt to predict the behavior of their victims and plan for contingencies such that a successful attack would require a fairly large group of soldiers to carry off successfully. For example, if the guerillas planned to block all of the points of egress from the building, this would require at least one soldier to block each exit. Terrorist cells typically do not contain more than five persons, which means that if students did attempt to flee the building, terrorist guerilla forces are not likely to have enough members to stop them. Planning for blocking exits was included in that attackers’ plan at Columbine, for example, but they did not have enough soldiers to block every exit or have another viable way to block all exits; therefore, many students did escape the building while students trapped inside the school library were picked off one by one.
Today, a person planning an attack on any Ohio school can predict exactly what will happen by accessing the school’s safety plan, a matter of public record. Knowledge of lockdown procedures gives a planner more probability of a successful attack, not less. Students trained under lockdown procedures will respond in a highly predictable manner to an assault upon a school; therefore, successful assaults on schools may be planned with few soldiers, fewer weapons, with need to account for fewer contingencies. Furthermore, as the Secret Service study findings on targeted school violence shows, most incidents are not caused by intruders. The attackers are usually students who attend the school, the very persons who would have the most direct knowledge about exactly where to expect to find students sheltering in place.
Another fault of the “shelter in place” plan is that in terrorist attacks on schools, students not only risk being directly attacked by an intruder or fellow student with a firearm. If there is a bomb in the school, students and staff at greatly at risk from structural collapse. Collapsing walls and ceiling caused the greatest injury to students in the 1927 Bath School Bombing. Yet most intruder drills instruct staff and students to ignore all fire alarms and assume they are false alarms initiated by the intruder. So what happens when an intruder sets the building on fire or detonates an explosive?
If persons inside the building cannot flee from gunfire, it makes sense that they should try to hide; however, you really are not hiding if the attackers know exactly where you are hiding. One employee at Luby’s survived by locking herself in the freezer. Another survivor hid inside the dishwasher. Current lockdown procedures have all students “hiding” in plain sight. Wouldn’t it make more sense for students, largely practiced experts in finding hiding places, to be creative and seek their own hiding places? Under current intruder alert plans, students are instructed to all lie on the ground in the corner of the classroom together.
Counterterrorism plans that are effective usually involve incorporating the same mode of behavior at the guerillas. Guerillas capitalize on catching their targets off guard. Schools, being soft targets, are always “off guard,” so this does not apply to us. Guerillas succeed when their targets respond in a predictable way. This is obvious to any schoolchild who has studied the American Revolution. In effective way to counter a guerilla assault is for those under attack to respond as individuals or in small groups. Given the historical pattern of attacks on schools coming from individuals or small groups, the much larger school population that is UNARMED must capitalize on its greater numbers to successfully survive a guerilla attack. In other words, students and staff responding to guerillas in small groups or as individuals stand a much greater chance of survival than the entire school acting in concert according to a predictable plan. After FLEE, advice the U.S. Marine Corps gives to military families to avoid terrorism is to BE UNPREDICTABLE.
The greatest concern of the terrorist is that victims are likely to fight back. I am not suggesting that students and staff engage an attacker in combat except as a last resort. However, I believe it is ill-advised to adopt a policy of training students and staff not to fight back. A school that is trained to not fight back makes the school more vulnerable, because a terrorist can execute his plan with no expectation of interference from the school’s occupants. According to a study conducted by the Secret Service, most school shooting incidents are stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention, yet in spite of this evidence, school lockdown policies are predicated on the principle that it will be law enforcement who stops the incident.
Because the reality is that even an unarmed group stands a very good chance of success against a lone gunman. I don’t care how big a gun someone has; if you hit him hard on the back of the head with a brick, he’s going to fall down. Several people rushing one attacker can easily subdue him, especially if one comes from behind. Chances are very great in such a situation that someone will die; however, chances are also very great that everyone won’t die, whereas if everyone lines up and waits to be executed, chances are very great that they will all die. Persons who are cornered, trapped, and cannot flee an attacker should fight back as this is reasonably their only chance for survival. Otherwise, once a school attacker has begun indiscriminately shooting people, history shows us not to expect the attacker to stop killing people until either he runs out of ammunition or he risks capture.
I cannot endorse training students to all get together in one group and sit in a corner of their classroom waiting to die as a safety plan. Since anti-terrorist drills do nothing to lessen the risk to students from terrorism, just as duck-and-cover drills did nothing to protect students from the risk of nuclear attack, I recommend that they be terminated. For those who say that to train kids to do “something,” is better than to not train them at all, I would like to discuss the psychological trauma that children experience simply by participating in these drills.
Teachers have told me that students are frightened during the drills, particularly younger students. A parent of a junior high school student reported to me that his son suffered insomnia, nightmares, and aversion to attending school for days following school drills. If students are traumatized by drills that are planned, that they have advance notification of, that staff prepare them for, how do we expect students to respond to mock terrorism drills, which involve actors carrying realistic-looking weapons? Such as: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/today/index.ssf/2008/08/scary_intruder_drill_leaves_ph.html Events like these create trauma. They are highly stressful for students and completely unnecessary, even counterproductive for preparing students to take life-saving action during an actual terrorist attack.
I find plenty of disinformation about how supposedly children are not traumatized by the drills, or that being traumatized by the intruder drills helps them to learn skills, skills that I have argued will NOT help them in the event of a terrorist attack, yet I personally know children who have been traumatized by them. Many anecdotal accounts of children traumatized during terrorist or “intruder drills” and lockdowns can be read on the following websites. http://cupcakelaws.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.htmlhttp://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/are-lockdown-drills-necessary/
One poster’s comment I find particularly salient. Steve stated,
“How important are lock down drills for incidents that rarely happen compared to instruction and schooling on far more important information that is NOT being taught or emphasized that would make all the difference in a student’s later life?”
Lockdown drills are to actual event of a terrorist gunman attacking a school what abstinence education is to AIDS prevention. Realistic planning for a terrorist attack on a school would include military training for staff and students, fortifying the building, for example, with bullet-proof glass and doors (actually some Ohio schools have these), installing points of egress from all classrooms to the exterior of the building, and arming school staff with weapons. Gun towers along the perimeter staffed by snipers would also serve as a deterrent to terrorists who would expect to find our American schools to be soft targets. As what it really would take to protect our schools from gunmen is not politically viable, we should cease lockdown drills immediately. They do more harm than good.