Code Red Drills

On February 14th 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked into Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and murdered 17 people. This was the fifth major school shooting in the United States since the infamous Sandy Hook incident, and many have gotten fed up and demand some change. Most of this effort has directed at new legislature regarding gun control and mental health awareness. However, there may be another factor in these shootings that is being overlooked: code red drills and general school lockdown procedures. Are they effective against school shooters? To find out, we will have to take a closer look at some of the most infamous shootings.

The defining characteristic of a code red drill is that students stay in their classrooms and hide from windows. This has safety benefits, but it also clusters students very close together with virtually no protection and no exit. Take the Sandy Hook shooting, for example. The gunman killed 20 children, but he only entered a total of two classrooms. (In both classrooms, he forced his way in fairly easily.) Among those two classrooms, he killed every child who followed traditional code red procedures. Virtually everyone who survived either frantically ran for safety or found refuge in a nearby bathroom. Hiding under the desks or tables, or staying in the classroom in general, seemed to be ineffective.

Looking at Columbine only adds to this pattern. The shooting was roughly split into two parts: one where the shooters shot at a large crowd of students in the cafeteria, and one where the students targeted students hiding in the library. 10 of the 13 total deaths came during the library massacre. Many students hiding under tables in the library were killed, and the shooters even taunted some of these victims before they were shot.

Am I saying that we should get rid of the current lockdown procedure entirely? No, mainly because there is no current alternative that would work any better. Sending the students to run free would probably be an absolute disaster, and arming teachers effectively would be an incredibly difficult undertaking.

But are there changes and modifications that our school can undergo in order to make our lockdowns more effective? Absolutely. The number one change is that there should be secure doors and walls in every classroom. The details of Sandy Hook and Columbine show that shooters go from classroom to classroom, making door security paramount. Also,many school shootings have been short : the entire Sandy Hook incident, from the first death to the shooter’s suicide, was five minutes.The recent Parkland shooting lasted six minutes. Police respond to incidents like this quickly, so a school shooter doesn’t have too much time. If every classroom has secure doors, walls, and barricades, it will take time to break in and make it harder for the shooter to get to multiple classrooms like the Sandy Hook shooter did.

Another possible change, which is more controversial, is how students should react when a shooter does enter their classroom. The school safety program called ALICE argued students and teachers should improvise when an intruder breaks in instead of staying still. They even suggested throwing projectiles at the attacker, and making themselves as difficult a target as possible. It remains unclear whether this will work, but hiding under tables and desks has not seemed to be an effective strategy so far.


– Amit Rajesh

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