Thursday, December 5, 2013

School Lockdown and Panicked Parents

I arrived at the school to pick up my daughter at the normal time.  Just as I pulled up, I received a text message from the school stating that they were on lockdown as requested by the Howard County Police, all students were safe, and they would dismiss as soon as they got the all clear.  It was odd timing only because it was just minutes before they would be dismissed normally.  Parents had gathered as normal to pick up their kids, whether by car or by walking, and all could only stand around and wait as news of the lockdown was received.  Their was no other news from the school or county, and no word on the news about why the school was on lockdown.

I sat in my car for around 20 minutes, just waiting.  The only other message I received from the school was a request to not call the school so as not to tie up the phone lines.  I could see the front door of the school from where I was parked along the side of the main road, and there was no action.  It was apparent that some parents attempted to request entry into the school, but a lockdown is a lockdown.  No one was allowed to enter or exit the school.  All we could do was wait.

It was killing me not knowing what was happening.  I had the typical worst-case scenarios running through my head, from a mass shooting to a bomb threat, though the absence of any emergency vehicles of any kind was a relief.  I hedged my bets and decided to run down to the grocery store, only a mile away, to pick up a couple of prescriptions I needed.  I held my cell phone in my hand the whole time, hoping to get a text message either letting parents know they could pick up their kids, or any kind of news as to what was going on.  I had been listening to WTOP, the main news station for the area, but they made no mention of the lockdown.  I picked up my prescriptions, then rushed back out and drove to the school again.  There was no change.  There were still many parents milling and walking around, and a long line of cars there to pick up their children.

Fortunately, the weather wasn't very cold, so I put the windows down on my car.  I hoped that I might hear someone talking about what was happening.  Finally, after over an hour, there was an announcement outside of the school.  I couldn't hear it, since I was too far away, but the crossing guard was going car to car letting the occupants know that they should park their cars, enter the school calmly, and bring ID to verify you are who you say you are.  There would be two lines formed inside the school.  As parents entered, they were given a release form to fill out in order to alert teachers as to who the parents were picking up.  The parent would give one of the teachers the form along with a photo ID, the teacher would check to make sure the person with the ID was on the student's authorized pickup list, then be sent around to the other side of the hallway where their child would be brought, and they could then exit.  It was apparent that they had a release plan.  Unfortunately, the parents totally screwed up that plan due to their selfishness and disregard for following instructions.

It was a free for all.  The two lines were formed and fine at the back, though there was a lot of confusion since nobody seemed to know what to do.  The forms that needed to be filled out were being given out by one woman, and if you didn't know she was the one to see for a form, you wouldn't know you even needed a form.  The next problem was that no one knew about the forms until we got inside, so how many people brought a writing utensil?  Fortunately, I was near a woman in line who let me borrow hers.  Next, despite the orderly instructions to wait in line, a school employee would randomly yell out, "Fifth grade?", and every parent who had a fifth grader would rush to the head of the line, ahead of all of the other parents who were waiting in front of them.  It was total chaos.  You could see the frustration on the faces of many of the parents and the teachers and faculty.  Patience was wearing thin.  Some of the parents, though, didn't seem to care.  They only wanted to get their kid as soon as possible, and didn't seem to care about anyone else.

I waited patiently until the I got to the front of the line.  I calmly gave the form and my driver's license to a teacher, she checked me off, told me where to go to meet my daughter, and disappeared into the crowd.  When I reached the other side, I didn't have to wait very long.  My daughter soon appeared, and I could see the relief on her face that I was there for her.  However, we had to wait for a teacher to call her name.  When that didn't happen after five more minutes of waiting, with many other kids getting called before my girl, I got concerned, and so did she.  Finally, she asked a teacher if she could go with me.  That teacher asked me if I had the form.  I calmly told her that I had given it to a teacher already who went to get my daughter.  The teacher said, "I think I know what happened," and she walked away with my daughter.  By this time, I was starting to get a little be angry.  The process seemed to be going all right despite the craziness with the parents, but now why was my daughter being singled out and not able to just leave with me?  Finally, they came back with the form, and we were able to leave.  My daughter said that, when they called her name, the teacher didn't wait for her, and she just followed the other kids to where I was supposed to pick her up.  Since the teacher still had the form, she wasn't cleared to leave.  It was a simple mistake, but given the circumstances, it was maddening.

I gave my girl a big hug, told her how much I loved her, and we trekked back to the car.  We were very relieved to finally be home.  So was Faithful Pup Scout, who was sitting in the kitchen with her legs crossed.  We never did find out why the school was in lockdown, though I found out that another nearby school was also locked down.

I truly believe that the school had the best of intentions with the entire experience today, but it could be better, and the parents would all be better served to follow the instructions they were given regarding the lockdown.  I felt bad for the teachers and faculty.  I don't know if they get overtime for situations like this, but they deserve it.  If only things could have been better arranged.  If only the parents could be better behaved.  It was truly a mess.

And now it's time for bed.  Have a great evening, everyone.


  1. Eric, I truly feel for you and all the other parents. That must have been terrifying, especially given the lack of information that you had. If you have a smartphone, like HoCo Police on FB ( They were giving updates as it was unfolding. Apparently there was a possible suspicious person with a possible gun and so it was precautionary. You probably know that by now.

    I'm glad you have your girl back with you safe and sound. Our kids are our treasure!

    Best, Leeann.

    1. Hi, Leeann. Yes, it was very frustrating. I didn't know about the FB site. I'll check it out. Thanks for your kind comments, as always.