Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 31, 2013

Eastern schools order lock downs

Parents express frustration they didn’t receive alert.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

Greentown — A domestic disturbance in Greentown Wednesday night prompted functional lock downs at Eastern High School and Eastern Elementary School Thursday, officials said.

Eastern Howard School Corp. Superintendent Tracy Caddell said there was no direct threat to students, but officials wanted to be overly cautious.

Routines remained the same, Caddell said. Classes simply were conducted in locked classrooms, and outer doors were locked.

By 11 a.m., the district posted a message on its Facebook page about the lock down, so parents knew what was going on.

The post said the lock down was a “precautionary” measure, but students were safe.

That message caused a panic within the community, Caddell said.

Phone lines were tied up all day as concerned parents tried to find out what was going on. Caddell said administrators couldn’t get anything done because they spent most of their time answering phones.

And there was an outcry on Facebook, too.

More than 30 parents and community members posted comments on the district’s Facebook page.

Many were frustrated they had to find out about the lock down on Facebook. They thought the district should have sent automated phone messages to all parents to explain the situation.

Caddell responded by posting a message: “We did not send an alert now because there is not an issue going on that directly impacts the school. An alert now, in our opinion, would heighten concern. Nothing is going on at the school to report. We are going to be doing many more lock downs in the future. Unfortunately, this just may be our new reality.”

If the district sends out a message every time there is a functional lock down, parents would be bombarded with messages, Caddell said.

The district has had at least five functional lock downs since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, the superintendent said.

Part of the problem, he said, is that parents may not know the difference between a functional and full lock down.

During a functional lock down, the doors are locked, but everything else remains the same. Those likely will be happening far more frequently, Caddell said.

It’s a full lock down parents need to worry about.

“In a full lock down, the bell might ring, but you may not see anyone in the halls,” the superintendent said. “Students may be held in different areas of the school.”

Parents and police are always notified when that happens.

Caddell said he understands why parents were worried, though.

“Everyone’s really on edge now,” he said.

The district just needs to figure out how to best communicate with parents in these situations, Caddell said. The heightened school security is new to them, too.

Caddell said administrators are still trying to navigate the waters.

Eastern School Board president Lisa Manfred said it’s always the district’s goal to work closely as a team with parents and keep them informed.

She said she didn’t know yet if the board would be taking a second look at how the schools handle communication during lock downs.

Not all parents were frustrated by how the school dealt with the situation, though.

One parent posted on Facebook: “There are always never-ending ‘whys’ and ‘could have & should have’. No method of communication pleases all. But I do think that when it comes to our children and their safety, there should be nothing less than gratitude. Locking the outer doors of a school really shouldn’t require explanation. For seven hours a day, I trust Eastern to care for my children and make decisions about their safety and well being.”

Lindsey Ziliak may be reached at 765-454-8585 or via email at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com.

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