A few days ago a failure to plan that wasn’t a complete ‘failure’ happened in a school in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The school was conducting a lockdown drill that didn’t go well for a transgender student in attendance:
To me the headline has ‘that’s idiotic’ written all over it.
The article does not specify the lockdown drill was for an active shooter, but Equality Stafford, implies that it was:
During an event that prepares children to survive an attack by actual assailants, she was treated as if she was so much of a danger to peers that she was left exposed and vulnerable.
My mind immediately concocted an imaginary conversation between the two teachers mentioned in the article as a voice over the intercom blared something along these lines:
‘This is a drill…lockdown, lockdown!
Take appropriate actions…this is a drill’.
1st teacher: Wow! Gotta get the kids to safety.
2nd teacher: Yeah. We’re in the gym. Guess the safest place is in the locker rooms.
1st teacher: Yeah, let’s do it.
2nd teacher: Wait a sec. ‘Susie’ is in this class. What do we do about ‘her’? She’s transgender.
1st teacher: Can’t let a boy into the girl’s locker room.
2nd teacher: She identifies as a girl though.
1st teacher: Doesn’t matter. We gotta be aware of sensibilities when it comes to gender, right?
2nd teacher: Right. So, do we put her into the girl’s locker room or into the boy’s locker room? What to do? What to DO?
1st teacher: Golly, I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe we should just put her on the bleachers all alone, and then in a hallway with one of us until the drill is over. That ought to do it, right?
2nd teacher: Right. Let’s do it.
Idiotic as it may sound, according to multiple accounts I’ve read, that’s pretty much what actually happened.
To be clear, I made up the conversation and the name of the student.
I must also note even Equality Stafford says the teachers in this incident are “not the bad guys”, and that “they are teachers without guidance in a county without guidance for these issues.”
None of that, however, takes into consideration the trauma, both emotionally and psychologically, that was done to the student in this story. That’s another issue for another time, though…one the school district and the involved teachers may yet be held accountable for on a different kind of level.
In the field of emergency management, a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin is used quite often. It says “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
Failure Or Success?
So, was the result of this lockdown drill a failure to plan?
The short answer to that is no…at least not completely, it is not.
It may be a failure to plan for the safety of transgender students, but it is not a failure to plan overall.
If the stated goal of this particular lockdown drill was to address what should be done to ensure the safety of ALL students and staff during an active shooter incident, an argument might be made that it failed that litmus test.
However, this school’s apparent error of omission is they failed to consider transgender students in their planning process. That’s a planning deficiency and planning deficiencies are what they’re supposed to identify by practicing a lockdown drill.
This lockdown drill identified that error of omission. So, I’m inclined to say the identification of that deficiency makes this lockdown drill at least a partial success…a glass half-full end result of sorts.
According to schools spokeswoman, Sherrie Johnson, the school district is now saying “all the policies, practices and safety procedures are under review.”
It remains to be seen what steps they may take to effectively address it, but the fact they’re looking at it is encouraging.
That’s not a failure to plan. Rather, it’s using lessons learned, however painful they may be, to help prevent failures like this one from happening during an actual incident.
That is how lockdown drills need to be used.
My two cents.
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