by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Kaneland High School on Oct. 6 went into lockdown for 35 minutes after school officials discovered what they believed were shell casings. Kane County Sheriff deputies and school staff further investigated and discovered that the objects in question were used starter pistol casings, typically fired during school track events. A Kane County Sheriff press release stated that the casings looked “old and weathered.”
The incident may have been a simple mix-up (the Kane County Sheriff Department is still investigating), but was nonetheless an example of the lockdown procedure used in the Kaneland School District whenever an element of danger materializes in any of its schools.
“We have a common set of crisis procedures in all of our schools, and when you’re dealing with a situation that is potentially a crisis, one of two things is going to happen: you’re either going to call a lockdown and get the kids into a secured room until the potentially unsafe situation has been cleared, or you’re going to evacuate the school building in a fire-drill-type procedure,” Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. “It’s basically a judgment call of the administrator in charge of the building.”
Schuler said instances such as a bomb threat or an unidentified person in the school will often result in a lockdown. There are also nonemergency lockdown procedures used any time administrators simply do not want students in the hallway (typically because of a spill or mess).
According to Erika Schlichter, director of educational services 6-12 in the Kaneland School District, a specified announcement is read as soon as the school principal calls for a lockdown. At that time, teachers are responsible for gathering students from the hall and placing them in the nearest classroom.
“(Staff) would lock the door, turn out lights, shut windows and blinds, move students out of sight of windows if possible, and have those students remain quiet,” she said.
Staff is also told to take attendance and inform administrators if any students are missing, or if an additional student joins the room. No one is permitted to leave the secured area or open the classroom door unless district administrators direct them to do so.
“Administratively, we fill several different roles,” Schlichter said. “We have one person working with communication—sending out releases and notifying other schools. We have someone spearheading—typically, the principal. We have a note taker—someone who is documenting what we’re doing as we’re doing it. We have another person in charge of communications with teachers and students. We try to be very efficient in how we fill those roles.”
For safety reasons, parents are not notified when a lockdown goes into effect.
“The last thing you want is a message out there that encourages a lot of people to come running to a building when you’ve got a potential crisis situation happening inside the building,” Schuler said. “The first concern is ensuring that the situation itself is safe. If there’s a need to communicate out, that usually happens after the fact.”
Schlichter called the lockdown process “a very simple procedure,” and said it typically runs smoothly during a drill or an actual situation.
“I think we have a real good procedure, and we use every situation to re-evaluate, take feedback and make sure we’re constantly getting better,” she said. “I do think the situation (on Oct. 6) went smoothly and was handled well on all accounts by our staff, principal and so forth.”