Lockdown part 2: my thoughts on the Kirkwood High School/KSDK situation

I posted about the lockdown that occurred at a local high school last week and didn’t share how I felt about what happened.  I wasn’t going to comment, really wasn’t going to but the more I find out about what happened the more I felt I had to say something.  Since the Sunday St Louis Post Dispatch came out with this column by Bill McClellan I’ve just been unable to get this out of my head.  You may not agree with me and that’s fine as I tell my students everyone is welcome to their own opinion, just please be sure it’s an educated opinion and I think that’s where this starts for me.

My first reaction when watching the story from KSDK channel 5 was that I was appalled at the fact that it took so long for someone to speak to the reporter, that no one asked who he was or why he was there.  Every school I’ve worked in for the past several years has been on that is locked, you have to ring the buzzer to gain entrance.  Even staff members are required to ring the buzzer and identify themselves.  Now I know Kirkwood High School is different than most schools, it is laid out much more like a college campus with several buildings connected by breezeways but not hallways.  This makes it a challenge I’m sure for security.  Students go from one building to another during class breaks meaning the doors stay unlocked. I’m sure there are ways to handle this, and I’m also sure that this week the Kirkwood School District is looking into this.  I was also bewildered by the fact that they lost sight of the reporter when he left the office after asking for directions to the bathroom and going in the opposite direction.  Again most buildings I’ve worked in over the past several years have video cameras in the hallways.  Maybe Kirkwood does not, or maybe their cameras don’t record so they can’t track the hallways.  I don’t know as that was never addressed in the various stories about this incident.  I’d love to know what the intruder or stranger in building policy is for the school.  I went back to wondering how no one saw this man in the hallway and spoke to him, then I thought about it as a teacher and not a parent.  Most teachers were probably in their classrooms teaching, if they were on plan time chances are they were in a classroom planning, grading, in a meeting, in the workroom, somewhere other than the hallway.  It’s not as if teachers that are not teaching as just standing in the hallway standing guard.  If the reporter was walking the whole time it’s not unreasonable that it would take him several minutes to come across someone.  Now I am bothered by the fact that when he found a teacher and asked for directions to the office the teacher or staff member did not ask who he was, why he was there, or walk him there, they simply gave directions, but then again I know nothing about their emergency preparedness plans, I know nothing about what they have been told, maybe only certain people are supposed to engage strangers, maybe the person was just really busy and policy slipped their mind, it happens.  I’m not excusing this but rather saying I need more information.

I saw online that there were people angry with the school for what happened, concerned about their students, and wanting to see changes.  I can totally understand this and while I can say that I agree with what little I know, I also know there is information missing and again I say it’s hard to make a judgement without that information.  If I knew a member of the Kirkwood High School staff I might ask them some questions, see how things are run there but I don’t so I am left with what is reported.  For safety their security policies are not published online, it would not help the school stay safe for that information to be available to anyone, hence the missing information.  I did go to the Kirkwood High School Website they have two notices that caught my attention a Message from Dr. Williams about the Lockdown and Dr. Havener’s Follow-up to the Lockdown.  I applaud the district for their calm response to the situation and for taking this opportunity to review their policies and make changes, this is definitely a sign of a responsible district.

Other people were furious with KSDK who has apologized for causing alarm but defends what they did.  I was bothered that they seemed to be going out of their way to make news.  I would be surprised if they didn’t purposely choose Kirkwood because of the set-up of the school.  I did not reach the level of furious until I read about the phone call between the school and the news station.  Concerned about where the reporter had gone the school called the cell phone number left, the reporter did not answer, I’m sure part of the “investigation”, the voicemail identified the person as an employee of News Channel 5, so the school called the station for confirmation, the school informed the station that if they would not confirm that this was their employee a lockdown would be put in place.  Here is where I get MAD, the station refused to confirm this was their employee.  They were supposedly testing the security measures of the school, yet when those measures were put in place it was not enough, we had to allow the school to go into lockdown?  Really?  I don’t think so, you got your story!  There was no need to scare parents and students, no need to have police called out to the school rather than be available for other emergency calls.  All you had to do was say yes, he is an employee, we’re working on a story on school security and we’d like to talk to you further about this.  Allowing a lockdown was irresponsible and in my eyes unethical.  This was going too far!  Like I said they have apologized for causing alarm ok that’s a start how about apologizing for allowing this to carry on when it didn’t need to.  When other news stations began reporting the lockdown and they stayed silent that was unacceptable.  I know they have lost many viewers in the St. Louis area, too bad that won’t change their practices.


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