Lockdown drills have become commonplace in Australian schools at both primary and secondary levels.
As an ex teacher, I understand why these drills exist and believe it is important to have safety procedures and practice runs of these procedures for a range of different situations.
But there is an issue, and it is a substantial one. Not every student or staff member within schools find these drills simple and procedural, or helpful.
There are some that are legitimately emotionally and psychologically impacted by them, and I have witnessed this first-hand.
Why Gabbie Stroud Broke Up With Teaching. Post continues below.
So, what exactly are lockdown drills?
Similar to fire drills, their intention is to prepare students and staff in a school with the safety protocols and routines of a specific emergency scenario.
Like fire drills, they are never announced, so the majority of staff and students are never 100 per cent sure whether it’s a practice or the real thing.
Lockdowns are usually used if there is an intruder or dangerous individual on the school ground, a threat being made against students or the school, an act of violence on the school grounds or an act of terrorism.
In most cases, the lockdown is announced via the P.A system with the words lockdown repeated, as well as a siren, every ten seconds.
This is done on a loop for about one minute, accompanied by an announcement that declares whether it is a drill and the communication of which specific threat it is.
Lockdown plans vary from institution to institution, but the Victorian education website says they can include the following procedures: directing children to seek shelter, pulling down blinds and switching off lights and electronics, remaining silent and encouraging students to do so, and advising staff and students to hide where they will avoid detection from outside the room.
Throughout my secondary school teaching career we conducted both of these mandatory types of drills. The fire drills usually ran quite smoothly, but lockdowns were different.
Although most of my teenage students followed instructions and were unaffected by them, some found the procedure more challenging for various reasons.
Some groups of students didn’t take the drill seriously and refused to take part. For them the safety procedure was ‘uncool’ and would never happen in reality, so why should they bother embarrassing themselves?
Then there were the students who thought it was a game. To them it was funny because they also thought it was never going to really happen. They would make jokes about shooting the intruder and reference different weapons they would use, making sounds of guns firing while laughing.
For myself as a teacher, it was another group of students I found the hardest to witness go through the drill. Over the four lockdowns I experienced when I was teaching, around eight students found them frightening, anxiety-inducing and quite emotional.