[A lockdown drill in a Missouri high school. Image courtesy Google Images.]
The school has notified all faculty that during the next two weeks, a random Lockdown Drill will be conducted. Local police and fire authorities will report to the campus and, working alongside security personnel, we’ll begin the hour-long process of checking each and every occupied room on the entire campus. Afterwards, we will walk to the main performance auditorium, teachers on stage, students alphabetically in rows, for a final roll call.
The purpose of this event is to prepare the campus for, say, an attack by a deranged killer meandering from building to building. A wandering black bear with rabies. A drunken gang of snowmobilers. Or one of our own, heaven forbid, turned sour after too many hours at the desk. Until security clears my classroom, I am to sit on the floor with my students in total silence, secured in the cove beneath the whiteboard. All windows and doors will be locked. Curtains drawn. Not a single word uttered.
[A lockdown drill in a Canadian elementary school. Image courtesy Google Images.]
This is, by all stretches of my imagination, a place that my mind refuses to go. It makes me nostalgic for something as simple as the Earthquake Drills of my youth. That we have come to a time in our society where enough people want to murder children trying to get an education or the teachers trying to educate them is a sad fact indeed. That we will rehearse this Lockdown Drill and my students—well versed in the drill by now—will know more about it than myself, says even more about how rapidly society has digressed.
Don’t get me wrong—I support the Lockdown Drill. We have to be prepared…and it’s the fact that we have to be prepared that leaves me, head hanging, tipping back one extra glass of wine this evening as I grade student papers. I’m reading their essays about race and diversity, about best friends and first kisses. I’m reading their fiction about lepers and drunk dads, about card games and eating disorders. I’m reading these words they have worked so hard to put on the page, I’m reading their right to be the young artists that they are, and I’m thinking, My god, how did we get here?