Administration, Students Unclear on Safety Procedures

By Sydnee Harris, ’16 and Kaily Baril, ’16

Since the start of this school year, there have been fifteen school shootings in the United States. In five of those cases, the shootings either started or took place in a public area within the school, like a cafeteria, library, or courtyard. A recent inquiry by the Eddies Echo into lockdown procedures at Edward Little High School made it clear that the lockdown procedures for the cafeterias are dangerously unclear.

School shootings most often happen in public places within schools. The 1999 shooting at Columbine High School targeted the cafeteria, then moved to the library. In 2014, freshman Jaylen Fryberg  fired shots in the Marysville Pilchuck High School cafeteria. On February 29 of this year, a 14-year-old student opened fire in the Madison Junior-Senior High School cafeteria in Middletown, Ohio.

In 2014, there was an unplanned fire drill during third period at Edward Little, the lunch hour. Students in the cafeteria didn’t know where to go, and teachers were yelling contradictory directions. Eventually, students flooded out of the side door near the cafeteria, and attempted to fit into the grassy circle outside of the gym doors. Teachers did not seem to have any idea how to take attendance, nor was there any taken.

In early April, Jim Horn, Aspirations director at EL, coordinated a meeting with the safety commissioner for the City of Auburn specifically about lockdown procedures while in the cafeteria.

Walking to the cafeteria, the safety commissioner, Raymond Lussier, commented he hadn’t been down to that part of Edward Little “since the ’70’s,” and that he didn’t think the school even had a cafeteria.

Walking through the cafeteria, Lussier said that there currently wasn’t a lockdown procedure in place specifically for the cafeteria, and in a later e-mail to clarify the point, he said, “the current lockdown procedure covers all of the building all of the time.”

Lockdown procedures for Auburn schools, according to Lussier, were created by “a company for all schools in Auburn and Lewiston.”

“I have read some of them, but not all of them,” he said.

Horn said he was happy to see student interest in the issue. “Now that there is student action, things should start happening.”

In a May 5 e-mail, Grondin said, “Lunch periods are areas that administration and teachers discuss as to what would be the procedures if there was a lockdown during lunch–best case scenario teachers should practice a lockdown drill during a lunch period, so students would also know the expectation. Just as in classroom lockdowns turn lights off, lock doors if possible and be quiet and out of sight.”

Principal Jim Miller did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

On May 9, Horn said that a few days after the meeting on April 6, Lussier told him that “in the case of a lockdown in the cafeteria, it wouldn’t be a lockdown. It would be an evacuation. It’s like the gym. We couldn’t lock it down; there’s no place to hide.”

In a May 26 e-mail, Horn said the cafeteria procedure would be a lockdown. “This procedure is for everywhere in school,” he said, “including cafe, gym and classroom, office areas, etc.”

He referenced the Emergency Response Manual, which has two types of lockdowns, Preventative and Emergency. Preventative lockdowns are meant to “rapidly enhance the level of security in the facility while allowing staff and students to continue with productive activities in a limited fashion.” Emergency lockdowns are “A response to an actual emergency situation requiring all staff and students to seek safety from assault by positioning themselves out of sight lines and using physical barriers for protection.”

The Preventative lockdown procedures, the lesser of the two, says that Food Service workers should “Lock exterior entrance points,” and “continue with normal activities.” There are no instructions for Food Service worker responsibilities under Emergency lockdown procedures.

In a follow-up e-mail, Lussier said there will be an active shooter drill at EL in June, but a specific plan for locking down the cafeteria was not being created. “We need to keep the plan that is in place.”

But students don’t seem to know what this plan is. Hayley Knowlton, a junior, said, “I’m pretty sure they lock the doors, and we hide under the tables.”

“They’ve never talked about that,” senior Dallas Frost said.

Jessica Brown, a senior, said, “I don’t know. They’d probably have us hide in the kitchen, but that’s a lot of kids to fit in the kitchen. That’s probably the only place that’s reasonable.”

The administration seems unclear on the emergency procedures, and the result is that students simply don’t know what to do in the event of a lockdown in the cafeteria. 

“I don’t know, actually,” said senior Trace Poirier. “I don’t think we’ve ever gone over that.”

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