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There Has Got To Be A Better Way

A Girl and Her Gun: There Has Got To Be A Better Way

Thursday, May 17, 2012

There Has Got To Be A Better Way

My 3 youngest children ride the bus to and from school.  They are special needs, so the bus only has 5 students on it and it comes straight to our house.  The bus normally arrives at our house at 3:30pm. If there is a problem like traffic the bus aide gives me a call to let me know that they are running late.  Yesterday at 3:40 I get an email that says

 As a result of an evacuation today at XXX Elementary School, some of the buses used for XXX Elementary Schools will have substantial delay due to the buses be held up at dismissal at XXX School.  If you have any questions, please contact your child’s school.

I am completely unaware that any school in our district was evacuated yesterday, so right away I am concerned. I try to call the school as my husband tries to check the local newspapers website and search the internet for any information.  We have had several of these evacuations over the past few months.  Some are planned drills to which we are informed ahead of time.  Others have been in response to a threat. In the previous events I have received an alert text message saying such and such is happening, stay away from the area, etc, etc. In addition the local newspaper will usually report it on their FB page, but yesterday neither of those things happened.

When I got the email I was concerned, but not overly so.  It could have been a planned drill and I just didn't get the paper, but the more I thought about it the more that didn't make sense.  Those drills happen during the school day and should in no way effect the bus schedule.  As time kept ticking and I was not able to find info or get through to the school, I started to get more agitated.  My anxiety was short lived, thankfully.  I was getting ready to have my husband go hunt down our children's bus, when it pulled up to our house.  Kids are safe. All is well.  

About 20 minutes after my children were home I received a recorded message from the county essentially saying the same thing as the email except this time they said the incident took place at the middle school.  It turns out it was a bomb threat at the middle school not the elementary school.

I want to say that in general I have a very high opinion of my children's school, their teachers and administrators.  Without exception I believe that they are good people who have shown me time and time again that they do care about my kids and their education.  They are not crazed "zero tolerance' advocates.  They appear to have common sense when dealing with a variety of issues that come up and they don't seem to be afraid to use that common sense instead of just blindly following some arbitrary policy put in place by the higher ups.  I trust them with my children.

I also want to say that I am under no delusion that the school could 100% guarantee my children's safety no matter what plan they have in place.  I get that life is a risk and even if one does everything right, someone could get hurt or die, that is not my problem, my problem is that there seem to be no plan. 

I called and spoke with the principal at our children's school and pretty much they were caught off guard.  They had a plan to deal with an actual threat, but they didn't have one if that threat lasted longer than a school day.  Once they(not sure who "they" is) realized there was an issue with the buses, they started to formulate their plan and it was not a good one. 

In a real crisis which they believed they were in, there is chaos and I would not expect the folks at the effected school to worrying about emailing parents or the bus schedule, but there had to be someone else in our district that could have said, Huh, maybe we should get some information out.  Maybe we should do it in a way that does not incite fear and panic.  Apparently there is no such person in our district.

The threat was over before school ended, so it is feasible that someone could have let the families know that 1. The situation had been resolved and no one was hurt. 2. That the buses would be late before they were actually late and 3. Define "substantial delay."

How about we think proactively.  How about we learn from all the other incidents around the country. How about something like this...

Earlier today at XXX school there was a bomb threat and the school was evacuated.  The situation has been resolved, everyone is safe.  However, due to the evacuation some of the buses are delayed.  Your child/children may arrive home 15-30 minutes later than usual.  If you have any questions please contact  XYZ. 

Now that wasn't so hard was it?


24 Comments:

At May 17, 2012 at 6:03 AM , Blogger Old NFO said...

No it's not, BUT you are one individual, thinking coherently, not a bureaucracy who can ONLY do what is approved by the system...

 
At May 17, 2012 at 6:04 AM , Blogger ProudHillbilly said...

Hopefully they will learn from this and formulate a plan that incorporates what they've learned.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 6:25 AM , Blogger Rob said...

We have had that issue here too. Sometimes well laid out plans work only and only if everyone does there part. Maybe that person who makes that judgement call was out yesterday.

You can call the school distract and talk with the Superintendent and also call distract transportation office. Sometimes you need to go over the head of the Principal. Most of these folk now days have PHD's so you think they would have a clue??

Nothing pisses me off more when you hear this person or that person referred to as DR. just because they have a PHD. My FIL has one and I have never heard him called DR.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 6:37 AM , Blogger Broken Andy said...

Some schools use Twitter to get information out in a broadcast format to both computers and phones. In a situation like that, maybe the shoot be tweeting real time information. You might suggest it to them.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 6:46 AM , Blogger Stephen said...

What Old NFO said...I agree.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 9:05 AM , Blogger RobertSlaughter said...

If you can create a coherent message, but they cannot (and I bet if you tried to explain it to them all you'd get is blank stares) ... why are you consigning your children's education to such minds?

 
At May 17, 2012 at 9:09 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Excellent question.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 9:50 AM , Anonymous Curt S said...

Twitter??? Email??? Er....last I heard there was this new fangled thing called a telephone. Oh wait...I see....today most of those people in admin have fingers that are used to pushing computer buttons....that or moving a thing called a mouse. I know if I were a parent I would be mad as hell if some idiot sent me a email or such regarding this situation instead of just calling me.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 10:03 AM , Blogger Sport Pilot said...

With any given critical incident the first hour is pretty much a wash. After the actual fact's and assests are determined the actual productive work begins to happen. The problem is when some idiot acted out of hand during the first hour and you have to fix the mess. FWIW the person who generally screw's everything up avoided all of the pre-incident training sessions and never reviewed the on file disaster response plan. Pick your most responsable child of the three and give them a cell phone that can only call you. Teach them to keep it hidden and only use it during an emergency. Also show them how to use it w/o being noticed while they do so i.e. text message.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 11:02 AM , Anonymous Ben Branam said...

Unfortunately this is how a lot of places learn things, the hard way. Most schools, institutions, and people think they are too busy to do drills. And when they do drills, they do them for the masses and forget "they" should be learning something too. So we all learn some things the hard way. The problem with the schools is that if no one is dead then they think there is no problem and they probably didn't even do an after action on what happened. You should go to the next school board meeting and ask for an after action and see if "they" will look at doing things better. If no one says anything the school thinks everything went well. Good luck, but I've been reading your blog for awhile and know that you are someone that could actually get this to happen. So I'd like to ask you to not let this go so everyone's children will be better off the next time something happens.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 11:17 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Ben, I just literally seconds ago had a conversation with my husband. He asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to try to effect change. I didn't want to just run and hide, so I will try. Going to the school board meeting is a good idea. I will do that. Thank you.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 11:23 AM , Blogger Broken Andy said...

Telephone calls take time. Even with a robo caller it could take hours to get one message to thousands of people. Email and twitter are much, much faster and take much, much less effort and fewer resources.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 12:24 PM , Blogger RabidAlien said...

To play devil's advocate here, too, I would imagine that no email/text/phone calls went out, because the first thing panicky parents would try to do (and you have to admit, not everyone has their act together like y'all do) is immediately storm the castle...er....school and get their kids away. Its a natural instinct, to get your kids out of danger. So, to prevent the chaos of a hoard of distraught soccer Mom's from descending Attila-style on the parking lot, compounding the original problem, I'm guessing that's why nothing was sent out initially. But, even though my Mom swears I was the devil himself as a kid, I could be off on that.

As for a follow-up plan, that definitely needs to be addressed. Someone once said "no plan survives first contact with the enemy"....that can be tweaked to "no plan survives first contact with a committee".

 
At May 17, 2012 at 12:32 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

We have had these before and they always send out a text alert. These kids all have phones and text their friends at other schools and their parents. The info is getting out, so the schools have decided it is in their best interest to inform families first, but that actually isn't my problem. I am fine with people focusing on the task at hand during the event. I was not too pleased with the after action and that no one had thought what to do if the incident went past 3:20. If the point is to keep parents calm, a late, vague email probably isn't your best choice. We can do better, I believe.

 
At May 17, 2012 at 1:01 PM , Blogger RabidAlien said...

Totally agree with you on that point. I just like to try to see the problem from as many angles as possible. Some problems, it seems, were only viewed from the bottom of a bottle...probably with a worm in it...

 
At May 17, 2012 at 6:04 PM , Anonymous Curt S said...

Let me know if I understand some of the comments correctly...namely "telephone calls take time" also what is this about having one's kid "sneak" calls home? No way Jose! I dunno about the rest of you....but I am sure there are more than just one phone available for the staff to call out on. This thing about hordes of soccer mom's decending...well....yeah....If I had a kid in that school, trust me there would be much more than the kid's mom decending on them, especially since the mentally challenged staff is clueless. As far as the school board....lotsa luck. I used to live in Colorado..Longmont, to be exact. Well....parents there cannot question the "board" during a board meeting, much less even get into one such unless the meeting is for the parents to attend...and then, the parents still do not have any input. Bottom line....Get your kids out of a public school!!! Period!!!

 
At May 17, 2012 at 6:19 PM , Blogger tc in tx said...

AG said "I also want to say that I am under no delusion that the school could 100% guarantee my children's safety no matter what plan they have in place. I get that life is a risk and even if one does everything right, someone could get hurt or die, that is not my problem, my problem is that there seem to be no plan."

I totally agree with that statement. It would look like more could be done with school security than what is generally accepted with the students, i.e., lock down the school and have the kids hunker down in the corner assuming a defenseless stance.

Several years ago here in Texas, a program was started in a local school district in the DFW Metroplex. It involved getting the students to participate in a defensive strategy with an armed attacker. Rather than cower in a corner, the students were trained to take cover as they could and start throwing whatever they could get their hands on at the attacker. At least they would actively participate in their own defense and possibly deter the aggressor. Go to http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com/2011/12/origin-rejection-of-alice-training-kids-fighting-armed-gunmen/ for a description of the program.

It was originally well received by the school staff, but unfortunately, the higher-ups got involved and rejected the program. I still think the training was well worth it and it is something you could pass on to your kids.

 
At May 18, 2012 at 3:23 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

I do like the idea of giving my child a cell phone. Gotta think about that a little more. Thanks!

 
At May 18, 2012 at 3:25 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Excellent, I will check it out. It would be great if schools took this more proactive approach, but at least preparing my kids is something. Thank you!

 
At May 18, 2012 at 3:29 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

I love your fire!!!

I do think the alert system is a good one. Broken Andy is right...it's fast. No matter how many phones they don't have enough to make it efficient and I don't want to be the last parent called. They do need to fine tune it and do a better job of choosing their words, but overall the alert is quick and no one has to wait to hear.

I am sure you are right about the school board, but I need to at least try. I do have respect for the teachers in my children's school and right now I am not even sure what the plan is. I spoke with each principal a few months ago. I was not happy with the answer, but I wasn't sure what to do. Now, it's time I figure it out. I may end up homeschooling, but first I need to try.

Thanks so much!!

 
At May 18, 2012 at 3:29 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

:)

 
At May 18, 2012 at 4:38 AM , Blogger Broken Andy said...

My brother, who is in charge of emergency preparedness for a very large university, teaches this type of thing to college students. If you know you are gonna be shot, throw a chair at the shooter. Throw your books at the guy. Run around in circles. Do something, but don't just stand there.

 
At May 18, 2012 at 5:00 AM , Blogger Rob said...

I was going to suggest this but not knowing the age of your oldest, I didn't you can get a pre-paid or what is called a burn phone on TV. It has a set air time limit. Trac Phone is one of the brands. cost of the phone can be around 410, Then you buy air time (minutes) sometimes referred to as units, as low as 60 min. You can check this out at Walmart or Target.

Your oldest can call you anywhere or text you on your cell, We started out this way for the wife and I and our kids too. Out of seven in my family we now have 5 cell phones. My wife and I have one down from one each.

We all keep in touch by call or text, someone out late they text us.

 
At May 18, 2012 at 5:01 AM , Blogger Rob said...

should have been $ 10.00 not 410 sorry

 

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