On Friday, Oct. 24, Kingswood Oxford experienced a Code Red lockdown during sports practices. All afternoon activities came to a striking halt as students and teachers quickly mobilized, taking safety in classrooms and following protocols, while the threat was neutralized nearby.
The KO community learned resoundingly on that Friday that there is a stark difference between our planned lockdown drills and a real Code Red scenario. While we hope that this situation will never come to fruition again, there are many takeaways and things we can learn from this lockdown.
The most jarring part of the experience for most students was the lack of knowledge in regards to the cause of the lockdown. Head of the Upper School Dan Gleason addressed the Code Red briefly at the following Tuesday assembly, acknowledging there was some inconsistency between the way the lockdown happened and the way a Code Red lockdown was supposed to happen and how KO is going to be more equipped to handle these kinds of scenarios going forward. Hearing a conclusive report of the events that preceded the lockdown was certainly helpful because it is important to remember that teachers and faculty were just as clueless as the students on campus. KO has already been working to actively fix some of the most obvious issues; for example, during the week after the lockdown, the PA system was set up so that fields on Trout Brook could hear what was being announced. Many teachers were also able to step up and take charge and act as a voice of reason and lead students to the safest location, to their knowledge.
The primary problem across the board seems to be a lack of clarity regarding the lockdown safety plan. During the drill on Monday, teachers and administrators communicated a variety of different directives for students to follow. Some students heard that leaving campus to a more secure area was the best option, while others heard that they should head towards the nearest building, regardless of where they are on campus. While in this specific instance, no member of the KO community was immediately threatened on campus, the administration must communicate a much clearer directive to its school, by having a coherent plan that encompasses all areas of campus and is consistent in its instructions. Ideally, a more coherent plan would make a future lockdown more certain, efficient, and safe for the entire community.
Additionally, there were many minor details that may have been overlooked during the planning of such a safety procedure, but were evidently missing during the Code Red lockdown. Students outside experienced problems getting into buildings, as all keycard entryways had been disabled. While it is probably in the best interest of the school to keep campus doors locked during this situation, students outside cannot be forgotten about, and there needs to be a plan to get them to safety.
This point brings up a larger idea on how a lockdown procedure applies to a scenario that does not take place during the regular school day. Lockdown drills have never been performed during sports or during times throughout the day that were not during a class. To better prepare the community, there must be a fleshed-out plan for every time of day, whether that be during classes, PLB, lunches, or after school.
Some ideas the KO Editorial Board has to improve the way lockdowns could be handled is to have ongoing communication with the people on campus during the lockdown. It is crucial that the students stay as informed as possible for their own safety and to reduce the fears of being left completely in the dark. A way to mitigate these feelings would be to send out emails or text message alerts during the lockdown itself to keep the students aware of the things happening in and around the campus.
Clearly, this unpredictable incident was a shock to the community; however, we are pleased to see that KO will be using this as a chance to fix some of the flaws that have slipped past a preliminary observation. It is comforting to know that should anything like this happen in the future, we will be better-organized and equipped to deal with the situation in a calm manner.