As one year anniversary of the Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School (MSD) shooting was still fresh in people’s minds, fear of a repeat shooting incident hit our schools in a big way. On Thursday, February 28, Boca Raton High School was placed on a ‘Code Red’ alert due to reports of an active shooter in a nearby apartment complex. The good news – Thankfully, no one was hurt! However, that did not prevent a bit of a panic for a number of students. From their perspective, all they knew was an active shooter was in their midst.
Which Way Do I Go?
The panic and confusion on that day was more due to timing than flaws in the procedures for protecting our children in classrooms. The classrooms go on a strict lockdown. Doors are locked and students stay in place. However, this incident occurred during lunch hour. According to the statements of several students, they had not received prior training, instruction or guidance about what to do in a code red situation when they are in the cafeteria, courtyard or similar circumstances. As a result, the kids scattered in all directions. Some hid behind serving counters, others scrambled to find hiding places wherever they could. But dangerously, many left the building and then the campus.
Ironically, some of the students who happen to live in the very apartment complex where the trouble occurred ran directly home taking other classmates to their shelter. Again, thankfully no one was hurt! But as you can imagine, many parents were shocked and angry as a weakness in protecting their children at school was exposed.
Lemonade from a Lemon
Let’s face it, protecting every school and every student from what is a rare and random occurrence is a monumental and costly task. But that is not an excuse. Just as the MSD incident has led to increased protections and vigilance, this incident can be used as a learning experience to fine tune the procedures and actions that students, teachers, administrators, first responders and communications experts should take when trouble arises.
I’m certain our School District 5 representative, Frank Barbieri, has received many emails from concerned parents in the aftermath of the panic. Mr. Barbieri was recently appointed as the Palm Beach County School Board Chairman and has been our district representative for a number of years. He has the experience and the organizational skills to further enhance school security. It is my hope that he will do just that. This is an opportunity to make lemonade out of a lemon. Please start squeezing!