On the Issue of Lockdowns…


Michael Aeschbacher, Website/Print Editor

Like many other school shootings, the recent tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida have left the American public in shock. Naturally, this has shifted the national conversation to recurring issues such as gun control and school safety. For many schools, the shooting has been a wake-up call: a reminder of just how important safety procedures are, even for schools that already do a good job in this regard.

The effects of this event have reached across the country to our own school. Throughout this week, flyers have been handed out addressing school lock down procedures. Information was given about the distinction between standard lock downs and the new “Code Red” lock downs (used in case of a shooter being confirmed on-campus). The flyers also announced an upcoming lock down drill, which took place on Friday during second period. Inevitable buzz among students ensued.

In this opinion piece, I’d like to offer my thoughts on the situation as a whole. I don’t intend criticisms PVHS or anyone associated, including students, staff, etc. This is certainly a heavy and sensitive topic, but we must come face-to-face with these kinds of things, lest we suffer the consequences of ignorance.



The first thing I noticed about the announcements was a general wave of skepticism among students. Discussions were sparked in several of my classes, where imperfections of our current lock down system were frequently mentioned. One popular hypothetical situation was the case of a shooter being a student from the school itself. It was argued that such a student would already be aware of the procedures, therefore undermining their effectiveness. This may be true, but all of my teachers brought up a single recurring sentiment: there’s no 100% foolproof way to deal with the case of a school shooter.

It’s a good point.  Now, it is a feasible expectation that our school should put effort towards ensuring the safety of those on campus in the case of a dangerous emergency. At the same time, it’s unrealistic to expect that our school should perfectly negate the dangers of such an emergency. The previously mentioned hypothetical situation has no real solution due to its overwhelming unpredictability. Yes, a student shooter would have knowledge of our lock down protocols. They might also show no signs of their intent, sneak a handgun into their backpack, and randomly start firing in the middle of class. Realistically, it’s understandable that lock down procedures alone would be incapable of making sure every student in that classroom makes it out unharmed. Maybe you could argue that requiring backpack searches or metal detectors to enter campus could prevent that situation, but I could guarantee that solution would come with its own challenges (including even more criticism from students). What I’m trying to get at is that a school shooting is a difficult situation with no perfect solution; safety protocols require a lot of thought, and normally they will be designed to have the greatest (not perfect) chances of successfully protecting the biggest (not all) amount of people.

So it’s okay that our lock down procedure isn’t perfect, but at the same time there’s always room for improvement. As of right now, the only change to our procedure seems to be the “Code Red” amendment. I do think this is a neat improvement; if it ever had to be used, it would be a simple, clean way to emphasize the gravity of the situation. With that being said, it’s ultimately a minor addition. The flyer assures us that the school will “continue to revise and improve until we feel we have done our best,” so I would definitely like to see some more adjustments and experimentation in the future.

On the topic of potential revisions, I heard of an idea circulating among staff and students that we could use a secret, inconspicuous message to announce a major lock down over the intercom. At first I thought it could make for a clever addition, but upon some further reflection I now feel that it would decisively not be a good idea. Firstly, in the grand scheme of things it likely wouldn’t be much of an effective hindrance to a shooter. But more importantly, it would contradict the basic principle of saving the most lives. Sure, it may be beneficial to students who are aware of the secret, but what about an adult visitor on campus, or a one-time substitute teacher? Even a student might be unaware of the secret if they don’t take safety lectures seriously. In the event of a shooting, these people would be left uninformed, potentially confused, and ultimately more vulnerable.

However, while everything mentioned above is definitely worth consideration, I’d argue that our greatest challenge lies within something that ties into news, media, and public opinion in general: short-sightedness. To reiterate, I’m not trying to criticize PVHS or anyone associated. This is at a nation-wide level.

Over my (admittedly short) life, I’ve been exposed to a fair amount of major issues and controversies that stir the national conversation. And one thing that I’ve noticed is that these things seem to get talked about the most as they happen, when they’re a hot topic. There always seems to be less emphasis on prevention (before these problems arise) and resolution (solving problems after they occur). Many will jump to the tried-and-true reason of “Americans being ignorant” as the cause of this, but we’re certainly capable of stirring up a buzz; the real problem is that the buzz only lasts for so long. This is especially true considering the increasing importance of headline-grabbing topics to a media and press that actively fights for digital views and clicks to stay afloat. Maybe our real problem is a short attention span.

Take net neutrality for a recent example. It was a piece of legislation that required internet service providers like Comcast to ensure equal service to all websites, big and small. It became a major talking point when the FCC voted to end it, opening up an opportunity for ISPs to charge higher rates and take more money out of the pockets of average Americans. I remember a point in time when everyone at school was talking about net neutrality and bashing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The discussion was all over the internet as well; my YouTube homepage was flooded with videos about it, and promotion for battleforthenet.com (an effort to save net neutrality) began popping up across several major websites. But the FCC vote didn’t come out of nowhere; I distinctly remember reading about the threat to net neutrality years ago in a magazine. Of course, nobody talked about it on a large scale at the time, but by the time they did, the FCC vote was already in place. And even though (at the time of this writing) net neutrality can still technically be saved by a congressional overruling, I doubt that it will happen. Why? Well, no one really talks about it anymore. Maybe a few that really care about it still do, but it gets nowhere near the amount of attention that it once had. Ironically, attention is exactly what BattleForTheNet needs most right now: if more people let Congress know their opinions, the persuasion could be enough to save net neutrality. But the topic has already largely fizzled out from the public eye.

While it may seem like I’m getting off topic here, my point is that these nationwide issues like net neutrality only seem to get talked about in the present, which doesn’t solve anything. They need to get talked about before and after they happen in order to actually resolve them. As a matter of fact, that’s probably a huge part of why school shootings are a recurring issue in America: they’re only substantially relevant around the time that they actually happen. Think about it: consider the fact that people discuss gun control after every school shooting, then consider how easy it was for the Florida shooter to acquire an AR-15The thing I fear the most about the Florida shooting is that we could forget about it before any large-scale action is taken to prevent future shootings. Because that happening will make this all for naught; it will allow the next school shooting to happen and the cycle will just continue some more.

For this reason, I present a two-fold challenge.

The first part is for PVHS itself. It’s very noble of the school to raise focus on safety in the wake of recent events, but I really want to see that momentum keep on going once things settle back down. Having a lock down drill on Friday was great; why not do more? I’m not expecting one every week, but a drill every semester (or even every quarter) would help the school be prepared in the long run for an actual emergency. After all, the unfortunate reality is that any school is at risk of a shooting whenever class is in session. Regular drills and/or other continued initiatives, even in times of relative calm, would reflect some of PVHS’s best values; they would allow the school’s commitment to safety to truly shine.

The second part is for the students, families, staff, and all other members of the PVHS community. You’ve probably talked about the recent events at least once. Maybe you posted a tweet in support of the Florida victims. And that’s not a bad thing; awareness is key to helping solve these issues. But if you want to go the extra mile and show just how much you care, then sustained awareness is what we really need. Keep the discussion going even when it’s not as relevant in the media. Get active: write your suggestions to the school; go outside and set up a stand to hand out some flyers and spread the word; check out some organizations that support your views; spark a community event; write to a politician…


If all of us really care about the events in Florida, then we won’t let them be in vain. It’s easy to talk the talk, but we need to walk the walk.