U.S. style safe rooms in schools to avoid “the baddies” come to the UK
Doing the school run this morning, I was listening to the morning radio talking about a US style safe room that had been introduced in a primary school. Late last year a Nottinghamshire academy had a drill aimed at avoiding the “bad people”. So teachers had pupils rushing through corridors, getting under desks, and entering a safe room. The whole school was involved. The purpose was to respond in the event of terror attack and was part of an emergency policy and procedures developed in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
Without dwelling on the individual case above, there is some difference of opinion about gathering in one place gathering or disbursing in all directions. The thought of either is frightening. I recall my own experience in my junior school – our school was next to a large housing estate (neighbouring the one I lived). During our lesson, an object hit and broke the window, and then another. Our teacher, very quickly but calmly ordered us all to duck down and then somehow someone crawled out and raised the alarm. The police arrive and promptly. In short there was a lone air rifle person taking pot shots at the school who was promptly arrested.
The fact is children in school do have to be protected and guided in such situations and these need to be planned for. The how is where the difference lies.
I also recall an incident in my senior school when I disturbed and angry local man entered the school threatening to harm the kids. Unfortunately he had be teased and had a nickname “the mad professor”. Our rugby teacher locked us all in, whilst the police were called. Some time much late I saw that same man coming down the road whilst we were waiting for a bus an totally unprovoked he lunged at one of my school mates grabbing around the throat.
So perhaps we should asking, is the idea of a school safe room against the bad guys, a disproportionate response? Well, yes and no. Okay we are neither in Lebanon nor Israel, nor in an active war zone. So the alternative is to have teachers and children making random choices and running away, hiding or protecting those they can. A free for all, take their own chances. What we do know is that children have been saved hiding in cupboards. Andy Murray, Wimbledon tennis champion did just that during the Dunblane school massacre 1996.
Some parents would be deeply troubled, thinking it’s draconian, and some are furious at the thought or a safe room and the reaction to terrorist attacks citing that their children are merely being taught to be in fear, to be obedient and also manipulated by “the system”.
There are now schools conducting lessons about terrorism in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, as well as teaches and pupils in Secondary school (years 11 to 19) being taught how to spot a fellow pupils being radicalised and showing signs of change.
For younger kids, a drill may either be scary or they may think it is a bit of fun. However they are learning to behave on command in the face of a potential threat. Back in 1990 the movie Kindergarten Cop, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a tough cop given his most difficult assignment ever: to masquerade as a kindergarten teacher in order to find a drug dealer. In the film the children used their fire drill during a real fire, which proved useful when in fact there was a criminal on the loose in the school.
What’s your view? Or, are you a parent who new safety drill been developed at there child’s school or about to be? Or, how do you think this should be approached?
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