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A Lockdown Lowdown

apple-on-the-deskLike some of you, I have a school-aged child.  We send them to school every day trusting that teachers, administration and staff will keep our kids safe.  And when things happen that threaten their safety, all bets are off.

On my son’s second day of school this year, there was a situation at his school:

  • We received an email in the early afternoon from his school’s principal saying they locked down the school due to a threat in the area.  Everything was operating as normal, and they’d get back to us with more information as soon as they had it.  That’s it.
  • My other son goes to a daycare center a couple hundred yards from my son’s school, and within one hour of the principal’s email we received a separate, unrelated email from the director saying they received an all-clear on a bomb threat at an adjacent convenience store.  There was no real danger to anyone, but the area was on high-alert for a while. 
  • Then, another 30-60 minutes later, we heard from my son’s school that the all-clear had been given and all was back to normal.

While I’m surely glad that there turned out to be no real threat to anyone’s safety, and that my kids didn’t even know something was going on, I think this case is another great reminder of a couple of staples of crisis communications.

  • The school told parents about a lockdown, but at no point did they say was the threat was – either as it was unfolding or after the threat had passed.  The only reason I knew was because my other son’s daycare director sent a note to parents.  As you could imagine, this created a lot of unnecessary panic from parents like me.  The learning tip here – an organization has to be willing to share as much as possible, or consider sharing nothing at all.  Each bit of information is integral to the overall story, and has to be carefully weighed and considered.  And when in doubt, more communication is generally better than less.  As a parent, I would much rather read about it in the original correspondence than fight my way through a long queue of panicked parents to ask questions over the phone – which I did.
  • I think school administrators deserve credit for keeping the situation low-key at the school.  While the police and area organizations worked together to diagnose and alleviate the situation, classes kept going and people went about their business.  My son never even knew what happened, which made that evening’s family discussion time quite a bit easier.  Learning tip – don’t create a panic if you don’t have to.  This ties into the point above – maybe the school should have withheld correspondence until the threat had passed, especially given that they didn’t tell parents what was going on and there was no imminent danger to anyone at the school.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but I’ll be following up with school staff about this situation to share my thoughts and be of counsel if they’d like.  As is usually the case, experience can be the best teacher.

What would you have done in this situation?  Leave a comment and let us know.

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