The Sum of Our Fears

by Robert Pondiscio
March 27th, 2008

 The New York Times the other day visited a New Jersey high school and followed the principal, roaming the halls as a crazed gunman might, looking for victims during a “lockdown drill” — a reaction to Columbine-style school shootings.  The Times reports such drills are becoming increasingly common in U.S. schools.  

 ”Gone are the days of the traditional fire drill, where students dutifully line up in hallways and proceed to the playground, then return a few minutes later,” the Times reports.  “Now, in a ritual reminiscent of the 1950s, when students ducked under desks and covered their heads in anticipation of nuclear blasts, many schools are preparing for, among other emergencies, bomb threats, hazardous material spills, shelter-in-place preparation (in which students would use schools as shelters if a dirty bomb’s plume were to spread dangerously close) and armed, roaming sociopaths.”

By the way, the days of the traditional fire drill are most assuredly not gone.  Just wondering:  researchers have catalogued every other aspect of the school day, minute by minute.  Has there ever been a study on the amount of instructional time lost to fire drills and other “planned” disruptions?  In my school, we had 10 to 15 fire drills a year.  Add up the amount of it took to trudge down from the 5th floor, march outside, listen to the principal complain or praise the students’ performance on the PA, settle the class back down after the excitement, and you’re talking about a pretty good chunk of time.  It’s not ”just a few minutes.”  Is it heresy to suggest that this is a little bit excessive?

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