Lockdown leads to student, staff confusion

Alex Youtsey, Staff Writer

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In response to a Torch request, students simulate the safety procedures for a hard lockdown. The confusion during the soft lockdown on Feb. 14 prompted discussion over the clarification of lockdown procedures for both students and faculty. Photo Illustration by Chloe Carroll

Calmly sitting at her desk in her 8-9A class, senior Florence Kang was surprised to hear an unexpected announcement over the intercom, putting the school into a soft lockdown on Feb. 14. Class instruction was stopped, and she and her classmates huddled together, discretely checking their phones for e-mails and texts to see if anyone knew what was happening.

“That was my first time hearing about [a soft lockdown],” Kang said.

Dean of Students William Eike said he is aware there was confusion over the lockdown announcement. Some teachers followed procedures for a hard lockdown instead of a soft lockdown. The lockdown stemmed from a call to the Northbrook Police Department about a possible bomb threat in the school parking lot, causing officers with dogs to search school grounds. No evidence of a bomb was found, and students were able to leave school grounds at the normal dismissal time. The school will consider changes to safety procedures to make sure students and staff understand what to do in the event of a similar situation in the future.

Eike said when there are reports of possible threats in the vicinity of the school, the administration will follow the procedures for a soft lockdown.

“[In a] soft lockdown, we don’t allow people to come and go … into and out of the building, but [we] continue to do what we do on a normal basis in class,” Eike said.

The school also consults with the police to decide if it is necessary to go into a hard lockdown.

“A hard lockdown would be something where we want everybody out of the line of sight of the door because we do possibly have an intruder … or some issue going on inside the building,” Eike said.

Kang said the unclear nature of the soft lockdown caused confusion, especially the lack of information regarding its cause. Additionally, she would have known the proper steps to take if she had been familiar with soft lockdown procedures beforehand.

Social studies teacher Robert Berg said he thinks one way to improve communication during a lockdown would be to e-mail teachers with more information about the cause of the lockdown so they could decide when to inform their students with further details.

“I think there is some value to getting more information out to the students,” said Berg. “It doesn’t have to be immediately and over the intercom. … I think the teacher is probably in the best situation to know what the emotional state of the class is.”

According to Eike, despite the confusion within the school over the soft lockdown, the law enforcement that arrived was pleased with the reaction to a possible threat.

“The reports we got from our first responders, being the Northbrook Police, they were very happy with the way that the school reacted to the situation,” said Eike. “We had compliments from them, … so I think overall the response was a positive one.”

Eike said the school is in the process of evaluating possible changes to lockdown procedures as soon as next school year, which may be modeled after other schools plans. Some schools in the area have incorporated methods such as barricading doors with furniture and evacuating certain parts of the building during hard lockdowns.

The school also plans on improving the clarity and volume of a lockdown announcement to better inform students and staff of what is happening.

Berg said he thought the meaning behind the lockdown announcement was clear for him, but he knew there were people in the building who were not sure what they should be doing.

“There was a student who came into my classroom, … and I asked him who he was and what he was doing,” said Berg. “He said he didn’t know what to do and was like, ‘I just heard this announcement and figured this was the safest place to be.’ As it turns out, the place where he was supposed to be was right around the corner, … so I said there’s enough time, you don’t need to worry, just go right around the corner [to] where you’re supposed to be.”

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