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Panic at School

My son sent me this text message at 9:17 a.m. yesterday: "We just had a code red."

"A real one?" I wrote back.

"Yup. A kid ran outside with a gun and was like tryin 2 hijack a car. I saw it all out the window."

Gulp. Someone with a gun was on the loose in my child's middle school. But thanks to that cell phone, by 9:22, I knew exactly who the kid with the gun was, that he'd been taken into police custody, no one had been hurt, and a SWAT team was scouring the school making sure there were no accomplices. And in the end, the gun was a pellet gun, not a real one.

Say what you will about kids being addicted to cell phones and texting, and whether they should be allowed at school or not, but I sure was glad my son had his. This was the second time in a year something like this happened in my oh-so-normal suburban school district. Last June, a disgruntled parent barged into the district superintendant's office and threatened him with a real live loaded gun. Thanks to our quick thinking and brave superintendant (who's now a local hero), the dad was disarmed and is now behind bars.

In both cases, I've known the families involved, parents and kids. Were there issues? In retrospect, yes, but nothing that could have predicted such a violent turn of events.

Thankfully, my school district has an excellent emergency response plan which is practiced on a regular basis. The teacher who saw the gun immediately notified the principal who had a panic button in her office (installed after the first incident) to alert the local police. The school went into immediate lockdown—no one could come or go until the SWAT team confirmed there was no other threat. By 11 a.m. the kids were back in class and a crisis team was on hand to talk with students, parents, and staff who needed counseling.

It's heartbreaking that we have to fear for our children's safety at school, but that's the case today no matter where you live. Does your school have a good security plan in place for such threats?