Foss: School lockdowns an unfortunate fact of life

Tensions were high at times at a forum held to discuss the lockdown at Niskayuna High School.
Tensions were high at times at a forum held to discuss the lockdown at Niskayuna High School.

We had bomb threats when I was in school, but none of us took them very seriously. 

Rolling our eyes, we would troop outside, sometimes stopping to grab our coats out of our lockers if it was winter. 

We’d gather on the football field, waiting for school officials to summon us back to the building. It never occurred to us that the bomb threat might be anything more than a hoax.  

Times have changed, and now such threats are all too real. 

Hardly a week goes by without a horrible act of violence making the news, be it at a school, house of worship, club, movie theater or concert. 

Given the frequency of mass murder in America, the Niskayuna school district had no choice but to respond to last week’s bomb threat as if it was real, because it very well might have been. The high school’s lengthy lockdown was stressful and inconvenient, but also, I fear, necessary. 

This doesn’t mean parents are wrong to raise questions about how it was handled, or that there isn’t room for improvement. 

But a conversation with a friend, a district parent and doctor who served as a medical responder at the Boston Marathon bombing, helped me put things in perspective. 

People need to “trust in emergency response,” she said, adding, “I’ve seen people dying on the street with blood pouring out of them, you never forget it.”

I bet you don’t.

One area where we might strive to do better is in comforting and counseling the students who are understandably freaked out by the bomb threats and lockdowns that have become an unfortunate fact of life. 

These types of scares are stressful, even when they turn out to be false alarms.

Today’s teens are acutely aware of their vulnerability — they know that schools are a popular target for mass shooters, and worry that even the most well-meaning of adults cannot guarantee their safety. 

They don’t roll their eyes when they learn there’s been a threat to the school, they wonder if there’s a bomb or an active shooter.

By all accounts, last week’s lockdown was unpleasant, and I’m saddened that students, parents, teachers and other school officials had to go through it. 

But lockdowns are also a symptom of a larger problem: That is the periodic eruptions of violence requiring schools to be well-versed in how to respond to a bombing or an active shooter. 

If we want to get rid of lockdowns, we need to address the violence to which so many of us have grown numb.

It won’t be easy. 

But we owe it to our youth to try. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.                

Categories: News, Opinion

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