Monday, May 01, 2006

Locked Down

Friday was supposed to be the day when we got back to normal after the end of WOSL. We were going to take it easy, watch a movie, and have a cookie to celebrate. By 8:30 in the morning we were laying on the classroom floor in the dark. The doors were locked, the blinds pulled, and we were doing our best to keep silent. We'd been locked down by the principal and we had absolutely no idea why. The whole idea of locking down a school comes out of the very few and very famous incidents of school violence that have taken place in the last decade. Columbine, Springfield, and others have done much to change the view of school security. Now, whenever the smallest thing happens, schools get locked down "just to be on the safe side." Of course, laying there on the floor we had no clue as to what might be happening. Was there a danger IN the school, or just some concern in the community? The kids (and I) really wanted to know why, but it is hard to get news from that position. The hardest part was that the kids were not remotely afraid. If they had been afraid they might have huddled quietly, hoping to avoid detection, in the corner. As it was, they thought this was some sort of amusing game, and then as time went by, some sort of mean joke. They were NOT good at being quiet, and they did NOT want to stay on the floor. Then again, it was tough to blame them as the time dragged on.

For the first 45 minutes or so, we played telephone as quietly as possible, next we tried pass around conversations (on paper and pencil), then we played connect the dots in pairs, and finally we started "toss the question." In the middle of all this the kids would ask me repeatedly if I knew anything, how long I thought it might last, and what they could do to amuse themselves. In the beginning, one girl asked why we had to lay on the floor in the dark. This girl has participated in many drills over the course of the year, so she should know this already. However, I gathered together my patience and explained that this was the school's way of keeping us safe just in case something dangerous might be out there. They all seemed to accept this, and we went on trying to be quiet. A little while later, another kid crawled over to me to ask if we would still be going to lunch on time. Again, I gathered my patience and explained that unless the lock down were over, we wouldn't be going to lunch on time because standing up and walking down to the lunchroom would, you know, defeat the purpose of the lockdown. This news caused furious whispering and many complaints of imminent starvation. Eventually, however, I got them quieted down with promises of left-over cheezits at lunchtime. Some time during the third hour, another child raised his had and asked "Miss L when it gets to be 2:06 (the normal end of the day) they will let us go home won't they?" I counted to ten before answering.

Finally, almost three hours after we went into lockdown, we were allowed to sit up and watch a video instead of lying on the floor. Officially we hadn't been released, but the police were confident enough to allow some flexibility. I handed out cheezits and cookies when lunchtime rolled around. Then, almost four hours into the whole thing they finally declared the lockdown over, and we could return to what was left of our normal school day (including full lunch by the way). Why, might you ask, did we have to do all this? Because a man, a grown man, decided to wander up and down the road outside school waving what appeared to be a rifle. They never found the man, but his "rifle" was actually three soda bottles taped together and painted black. If they find him, I think his punishment should be to lie on the floor in the dark for four hours times 982 for all the people who were forced to be part of his "prank."

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