The Lockdown – How Did We Respond? (Part 1)
Cardinal Nation staff member Doug Slovenkay analyzes the experiences had by students, staff, and himself
January 9, 2023
The unnerving prospect of a lockdown is the elephant in the room inside just about every school building in America – a fear rooted in an ever-growing amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests that violent emergencies within school buildings have become actual possibilities.
On Thursday, December 15th, 2022, the students and staff here at Mentor High School briefly felt as if their fears may have been becoming a reality when the school was placed in an hour-long lockdown. The next day, on December 16th, 2022, Mentor Public Schools sent out an email to families detailing the cause of the lockdown:
Through [a] phone system, our staff has the ability to enter a four-digit code on any phone in the building, which triggers an alarm sound and opens up speakers across the school. The staff member can then announce why they’ve triggered the alarm for all to hear. This would be helpful in an actual emergency situation to keep people informed and safe. Yesterday, when the alarm sounded, no one spoke. The silence prompted the principal to make the decision to go into lockdown as the best safety precaution. The administration team along with Mentor Police then began to immediately search the building looking for an emergency situation.
We now know what triggered the alarm. A staff member made a call from the board office, dialing a complete 10-digit phone number, and coincidentally, the last four digits matched the four-digit alarm code at the high school. The staff member at the board office was unaware an alarm at the high school sounded when this call was made.
While thankfully, the lockdown was the result of a false alarm rather than an actual threat, the experience was certainly a frightening one that is sure to resonate with all involved for some time.
While the vast majority of Mentor students were in class at the time the alarm sounded (12:38 p.m., two minutes before the end of mod 12 and a building-wide class change) and were able to lock down within a classroom, there were many students who were located in the Hub and Student Center when the sound played. For these students, the fear that would typically accompany a lockdown scenario was amplified due to the uncertainty of not being able to rely on the confines of a classroom for safety in the midst of what was believed to be an emergency.
Cardinal Nation was fortunate enough to be able to interview Mrs. Lisa Ford, Mentor High School’s Media Specialist who was in the Hub at the time of the lockdown, for information regarding how the ordeal played out inside of the Hub:
“Well, the Hub was weird that day because students who are usually in the Upper Hub were downstairs because I was on a field trip,” Mrs. Ford states. “This meant that there was double the normal amount of students. When the alarm goes off everyone usually would go to make space but because there were so many people, we started putting [small groups of students] in the Unit 11 Office. We were running to lock doors and instructed everybody who was in the back of the Makerspace to sit down, keep quiet, and deploy the barricades. Additionally, many of the kids were, of course, very nervous. I wasn’t really nervous, because I knew I had heard the sound before. I was telling the kids that they had played the sound before and it was the phone system. I tried to reassure the kids it was the phone system but because of how the system is set up you’re supposed to treat it as an intruder. Every five to ten minutes I would peek out the window to the hallway, and I saw officers and administration checking and clearing the building. When it was over we had students who I didn’t even know thank me for how I handled it.”
The vast majority of Mentor students who were not in a class at the time of the lockdown, however, were in the Student Center, as the alarm sounded during a lunch period. As somebody who was in the Students Center at the time of the lockdown, the following information will be a personal account of how the student center was locked down from my perspective:
When the alarm initially sounded, the cafeteria hushed considerably, although nobody moved, as the sound of the alarm was unlike the noise that we have been taught means that the school is, for whatever reason, under some sort of threat and a lockdown is necessary. (Advisor’s Note: The alarm has indeed been drilled before, but it was disorienting for many to hear it for the first time out of context of a drill and with no explanation afterwards.)
For several moments, the Student Center sat still as we watched all of the School Resource Officers and the police officer who was stationed in the student center listen to their walkie-talkies before instructing us to remain seated. This did not last long, however, as soon after that instruction was handed down, principal Jason Crowe made an announcement over the loudspeaker instructing the entire school to lock down. When this announcement was made, the majority of the Student Center flocked to the back door in an attempt to evacuate the school but were denied by a School Resource Officer who blocked the exit and instructed us that we were to lock down rather than evacuate.
Shortly after this confusion took place, several administrators made their way to the Student Center where students were led to the I-wing to either lock down inside of an I-wing classroom or the boiler room.
While it is safe to say that the Student Center’s lockdown experience was far more hectic than the one Mrs. Ford described as being present in the Hub, this can easily be attributed to a much larger concentration of students being in the Student Center at the time of the lockdown, which complicated matters significantly. With this being said, the experience certainly taught a valuable lesson to all involved about how to respond to a potential emergency situation in the wake of inconvenient circumstances.
A theme that has become particularly common as stories have been told regarding this incident is that the reaction amongst the student body to the lockdown was not a particularly calm one. For more information regarding student reactions, Cardinal Nation conducted an interview with MHS sophomore, Alex Oiler:
Cardinal Nation: How do you feel your peers handled the lockdown?
Alex Oiler: I feel like some of my peers handled it responsibly and stayed calm. On the other hand, I know it was a stressful time and a lot of emotion but some of the jokes that my peers were saying were immature about the situation. I feel like what they said should’ve stayed to themselves and the jokes ticked me off because of the situation.
Cardinal Nation: How did you feel during the lockdown?
Alex Olier: I felt a little nervous and scared at first, but I tried to remain as calm as I could be while also helping others in my class stay calm.
Cardinal Nation: What do you think could’ve helped mitigate the chaos of the lockdown?
Alex Olier: I think it’s way beyond the control of the school but I feel like some parents could’ve been calmer during the situation. I understand that we are their children but when we are supposed to be calm in these situations, our parents panicking doesn’t help.
Cardinal Nation: What needs to be added for future drills?
Alex Olier: I feel like we could maybe add a little more surprise to our drills meaning we could have less notice to teachers and they wouldn’t know prior, so in the event of another lockdown we are better prepared.
Cardinal Nation: Do you believe social media was used correctly during the lockdown?
Alex Olier: I feel like social media was not used properly during the lockdown because of the jokes that spread. It got worse as time went on.
As illustrated by Alex, the student response to the lockdown as a whole varied tremendously, and there was certainly a feeling amongst students that not everybody handled their emotions towards the situation in an appropriate manner. With this being said, it is safe to assume that just about every individual inside Mentor High School had never experienced anything quite like what they experienced on December 15th, the fear of knowing that their safety may have been in jeopardy while at their place of education or employment.
Due to the eventual outcome being a fortunate one, The experience as a whole was one of learning, and the hope is that everybody involved will be better equipped to handle a real emergency situation as a result of the successes and failures of our response to this lockdown.
Check out the links below to see how our lockdown was covered in Cleveland media: