Saturday, Jan 25th

Last updateSat, 25 Jan 2020 11am

You are here: Home Schools False Alarm Sends Middle School Into Lockdown

False Alarm Sends Middle School Into Lockdown

KidsUnderDesksA false alarm from a new emergency system at Scarsdale Middle School sent the entire school into lockdown at 1:55 pm on April 2, just a half hour before dismissal. The school administration immediately contacted the Police Department who, upon arrival, conferred with school officials and decided to do a full search of the school and keep the students inside their classrooms. According to School Principal Meghan Troy, they did not know it was a false alarm until the conclusion of the search.

The search was not completed until 3:30 pm, which delayed the bus schedule for middle school students and the entire district.

During the lockdown, students were forced to stay inside their classrooms, some under their desks, as is the protocol. No one was permitted to leave the classroom to go to the bathroom, leaving some to urinate in a garbage can or paper cup.

Here is the statement from the police:

On Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 2:07 PM, the Scarsdale Police Department received a report of an automated lockdown alarm from the Scarsdale Middle School.

Upon arrival at the school, it was decided by School Officials and the Scarsdale Police Department that a sweep of the school would be performed out of an abundance of caution.

The sweep of the school was conducted and no threat was discovered. The building was turned over to School Officials at approximately 3:30 PM.

According to an email from Scarsdale School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman, “The District investigated how a system, not currently in use, was triggered. Due to these unusual circumstances, communication was delayed until such a time as we had correct and complete information. The District is committed to communicating with our community in a timely and accurate way.”

One mother of a middle school student noted that if the school suspected that the alarm had been triggered by mistake why the children were kept in lockdown for an hour and a half. Another mom, who waited in a long line of cars outside the school for two hours asked why no one from the school had come outside to give parents an update or information about when their children would be released. When her child was finally sent outside, she learned that she had been told to stay under her desk without speaking during the lockdown.

However many were grateful for the care the children received.

Here are a few comments parents sent to the Principal:

"We can’t thank you enough for keeping our kids safe today in your classroom during some very scary circumstances....all three said that you were very calm and comforting to them even though they were really scared. We are so grateful to you, as I know the other parents are as well." (8th grade parent)

"I wanted you to know that (student's name) walked away from this terrifying situation thinking that you were putting her and your other students before yourself. The courage and professionalism you demonstrated today is something you should be proud of and the district should be made aware of." (6th grade parent)

"She told me how you took the drill very seriously and took control of the situation. In today’s crazy world we often feel very vulnerable...but it is a comfort to know that she has a teacher who will take good care in a situation if ever needed. Let’s hope that we will forever only have drills. But thank you for keeping her safe and keeping the kids calm during such a scary time." (7th grade parent)

Still others wanted the District to implement further protocols.

Roger Neustadt, who heads the Scarsdale Coalition for Safer Schools communicated the following to district administrators:

A few notes on the Middle School lock down yesterday. These come from initial comments received by our organization and are troubling. These are first-hand accounts by students inside the school.

First, some teachers barricaded their doors and others did not. I am confident that there is a policy. Whichever way that policy directs teachers, it must be followed. It must be automatic. We will not comment on whether a barricade is advisable but the must be consistency across the schools. Teachers seem not to be well trained by the District if they do not know the proper course of action.

Second, some teachers confiscated students' cell phones and others did not. Without getting into the issue of whether teachers have the right to confiscate personal property that is not interfering with instruction (which was not occurring during the lock down), there is a right and wrong way to handle this.

What are the policies of the District? Whatever it is, it must be followed and teachers should not be making it up as they go. Adherence to well thought out policies is what will save lives in the event of an actual incident. There are unacceptable lapses in training, policy or understanding. Our teachers must be trained better. We expect more from the District.

We do recall though that an item on the District's list of security improvements is to ensure supplies of water in the classrooms in the event of an extended lock down. That list was published in the fall. Does it really take that long to purchase water bottles and place them inside the classrooms? Much of that list of 51 items should have been completed by this date. Clearly they were not, or the teacher in that classroom was unaware that water supplies were available to him/her. Was that list published for PR purposes or is there real progress being made? It seems to us that placing water bottles in the classrooms should not take months to accomplish.

Does the District interview students as part of an after-incident follow-up? They are the ones who are in the classrooms with a perspective different than that of the administrators and teachers.

There have been many comments that parents are thankful that all of our children are safe. This was a false alarm so clearly they were not in danger. If this had been a true incident we can only hope that our record would be as clean.”

It should be noted that the Scarsdale School District has committed considerable funds to enhancing district security, and this new lockdown system was perhaps just one of these safety enhancements. In addition to hiring Director of Security Mike Speddaliere, for the 2019-20 school year there will be two security guards assigned to each of the seven district schools. This summer security vestibules are being constructed at district schools to further control access to the schools. In fact, the 2019-20 budget for school security is $1,294,031, which is an increase of $824,418 over the current year, 2018-19. Included in these funds is $805,407 specifically for visitor management and building safety personnel.

While some parents are growing increasingly alarmed about protecting children in school, others are concerned that these funds could be spent on educational enhancements and worried that safety drills and lockdowns may be frightening and alarming to children.

The debate continues… how much school security is enough?

Leave a Comment

Share on Myspace