BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — When Bristol Eastern High School students heard “Lancer Lockdown” over the intercom last Monday, they scrambled into classrooms and hunkered down.
The first test of the new lockdown, intended to secure the school in case someone starts shooting, saw teachers frantically herd students out of hallways and, once the corridors were cleared, lock doors, shut off lights and take attendance.
Then students and teachers were instructed to lie low and wait.
“We need to fine tune some things,” said Principal V. Everett Lyons. “Though all the students took it seriously, we need to make sure that everyone knows what to do some very minor stuff.”
“This is a safe school,” Lyons said. But, he said, “No matter how safe you are, you need a backup plan. We can’t get into the attitude ‘it can’t happen here.'”
Lyons said he wanted to wait until the hysteria from the Colorado school massacre died down a bit before telling teachers, students and parents about the lockdown plan. They were all informed recently.
Alexandra Mikan, an English teacher at Eastern, said the plan “may not be foolproof,” but it’s best to have something ready. “I think having a plan will give people a direction to go in,” she said.
In a letter to parents, Lyons said school administrators “do not perceive a threat at present” but want the plan to help minimize risks.
He said a key role for parents and students “is to keep us informed of situations which may lead to a more serious outburst. Please do not assume that ‘somebody at school should know about this’ and do nothing.”
Lyons said a dress code barring hats, bandannas, heavy sweaters and sweatshirts, jackets and coats will be strictly enforced.
The school is also taking precautions against visitors.
After 8 a.m., all doors except the main entrance will be locked from the outside and visitors must stop at the office to get an identification badge.
If an emergency evacuation of Eastern is ever necessary, said Lyons, students and parents have been told to head to nearby Stafford School.
To bolster security, Lyons said he also wants to replace many aging doors. They should lock when they swing shut, he said, but many now don’t close properly.
“The art doors don’t lock from the inside,” said Wendy Thornley, an art teacher at Eastern. “I herded my students into the closet. When we got out we’d been locked in. We had to flag down a janitor in the hallway to get out.”
“It’s a good plan,” Thornley added, “but I hope we never have to use it.”
More drills are planned soon.
At a meeting with Lyons recently, Eastern staff members suggested that classrooms should have a second phone installed for emergencies, since the normal line to the office is often busy.
Lyons said they could install another intercom phone. But he said the school’s five two-way radios are sufficient.
Sharon Poupart, a guidance counselor at Eastern, said the plan sounds good. Lyons, she said, is “being pro-active. He is not going overboard.”
Poupart said that on the first day back at school after the shootings at Columbine High School, “I saw many kids that were nervous and wanted to talk about Littleton.”
In addition to cracking down and making plans, Lyons is also trying to soften the school environment.
To help draw students together, more activities are planned for the upcoming year that would include the interests of more social groups, he said.
During an address to the school over the intercom recently, Lyons said, “All students must be welcomed. We need to refrain from spiteful, hurtful behaviors and comments. We all have to learn to get along together. We must demand respect for every student.”
Merissa Mastropiero is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International. YJI Reporters Joe Wilbur and Jessica Norton contributed to this story.