New security measures implemented after accidental lockdown

Safety procedures may change culture, norms for students and staff



The system allows teachers to quickly activate a lockdown

After the Nov. 8 lockdown, the administration made changes to keep the school and its students safer.

NT has been looking for a solution so that students will never be in a classroom during a lockdown without the ability to lock the door.

Assistant Principal for Student Programs and Operations, Athena Arvanitis, said, “The way our school is set up right now you need an adult in the classroom to lock the door for you guys. What we did was we strongly encouraged our staff members when they’re leaving a classroom to lock the door behind them.”

Adults in the building have been essential in implementing changes regarding unlocked classrooms.

“Teachers and staff in general have played a really integral role in making sure students are safe, and making sure that we know our responses to a number of different types of emergencies. This one falls in line with everything else we’ve asked our staff to do which is to know the response plan in your classroom,” said Arvanitis.

The administration asked that this become a regular behavior rather than solely being a precaution that is followed during drills.

Arvanitis said, “We’ve also asked teachers to either wait for the next staff member to come into the room and then leave, or to ask students to sit in the hallway or stand in the hallway until their teacher arrives.”

Some felt that waiting in the hallway is a bit much.

“I think it’s not a bad thing that they are taking precautions, but it does feel over the top. I understand where they’re coming from, but those extra safety precautions like not going into classrooms without a teacher feels a little forced. However, I think it’s good that the administration is trying to make students feel safer at school,” said senior Alina Popatia.

Arvanitis argued that being in a hallway is actually safer in a lockdown situation. If there was an active shooter in the school, students in the hallway would have the option to run either to a safer classroom, a hiding spot, or out of the building.

“If an adult’s not in [a classroom] to lock it, you put yourself at a disadvantage if the situation were real. It’s more beneficial for students to be in the hallway so we can choose either run, hide, or fight, rather than being a classroom thinking they’re safe, starting to lock down, and realizing they can’t lock the door.”

Students agreed that being behind a locked door would make students safer, which is why some were concerned with the new policy.

Senior Arden Pedraja said, “I think that the locking students out of classrooms is problematic because the only people who have died in school shootings were people in open areas. People in classrooms are less likely to die because you are protected. If you’re in the hallway, you are an easier target so it feels like the opposite of a safety measure.”

Another facet of this issue has been how to best prepare substitute teachers for a lockdown situation.

The administration has added additional mandatory training for subs, as well as given them classroom keys so that they’re able to lock the doors and unlock them in the same way that teachers do.

“Substitute teachers go through training every school year that includes emergency response plans for both campuses. We’ve recently created another training module for Subs, and requested that they all take or go through the training. We’re getting a good response from that,” said Arvanitis.

The school has also been working on improving communication with parents and students.

Arvanitis said that although the communication has been successful, the system can still improve. What we could do differently or better would be like trying to get a communication out to all parents sooner.”

On Nov. 8, there were students in the building who couldn’t hear the PA announcing the lockdown. Now

the administration is implementing an emergency text system to help inform students of emergencies in the future.

An email from Denise Dubravec that was sent to all students and parents explained that in emergencies, texting is often the fastest way to provide information.

While changes are being made, some still expressed concerns about the fact that the lockdown was triggered accidently.

Senior Sarah Hughes said, “I still feel weird about the lockdown button accidentally being pressed. Also adults are the only ones who can press the lockdown button which could be dangerous if a student was the only one who knew about or saw an active shooter because they would have no way of alerting the school.”

After the lockdown, there was a security audit and the school hired two different security consultants to examine the physical safety of the school as well as the technology that NT uses.

The physical security consultants looked at the school’s buildings, locks, windows, and doors.

“One of the outcomes of the security audit was we needed to create authorized entrances and so that’s why you see the three security vestibules,” said Arvanitis.

“We are limiting how people enter and exit our building during the school day because the more doors we have open, the more vulnerability you bring into work at a school day,” said Arvanitis.

The security vestibules were placed at entrances that most students use anyways such as the south entrance (the front door), the east entrance (the gym door), and the new building entrance to try to minimize inconvenience for students.

The second consulting group that was brought in has helped NT develop their lockdown technological emergency response system.

Arvanitis added, “Now, we have an automated siren with a pre- recorded message for lockdowns. We’re also automating things like our phone call to the emergency responders, things that need to happen immediately and efficiently.”

Another part of moving from a manual to an automated response is that the doors close automatically, which helps with timing.

According to the administration, there were also benefits from the lockdown.

“The system that we put in place is effective. Communication to the police department and emergency responders was very quick and so there are a lot of really good things that came from this too,” said Arvanitis.

The school works closely with local police to ensure that NT can get students to safety as soon as possible if there was ever an active shooter.

NT has tried to preserve student centered learning while still implementing changes to make school safer.

Arvanitis said, “We still have free periods. You can be in the hallways. We’ve had a minimal impact on how [students’] days feel or run when [they’re] in the building. Most of our impact has been on things that students don’t really see.”