Image by Jenna Greenzaid
If you are an MCPS student, the phrase “lockdown” likely generates memories of covering classroom windows, locking the door and sitting silently under desks during drills and emergencies. However, MCPS is now making changes to active assailant situation procedures coinciding with the “Maryland Safe to Learn Act.”
Included in the act is the Lockdown with Options drill, which explains that during an active assailant situation, students should either secure themselves where they are or move away from the school to avoid danger.MCPS collaborated with the Montgomery County Police Department to develop schoolwide training based on the nationally recognized “Avoid, Deny, Defend” model.
“It is all about situational awareness and always being aware of your surroundings,” principal Brandice Heckert said. “This is meant to acknowledge that within the school and community, these situations do exist and we need to pay attention to them.”
“Avoid” means that if a student sees a situation, they should avoid it and get out of the building to somewhere safe. To “deny” someone would be to prevent them from entering through barricades or locking the doors and windows of a classroom. Finally, the “defend” portion would be used as a last resort, and students should act by themselves or with others to subdue a threat.
“I believe including this new drill is helpful to ease students’ and staff members’ minds because now we have options,” assistant school administrator Marie Gasaway said. “The more we talk about it and practice the drills, the better prepared we will be if this situation were to occur at our school.”
Teachers have already been trained on the new procedures and were able to voice any questions and concerns to administrators. Currently, the “Avoid, Deny, Defend” model is recommended by state law, but it soon will be required for all Md. public schools.
“The teacher training was completed over two sessions,” Gasaway said. “Teachers had the opportunity to view a 30 minute video about the new drill and had opportunities to ask Ms. Heckert and security members questions.”
Students will be made aware of the new drill during homeroom. They will then watch a video about the procedures and discuss what options they would have during certain scenarios.
“Always take drills seriously,” Gasaway said. “Just like practicing for a basketball game or concert, practicing emergency drills should be taken seriously as well.”