Lockdown – The Administrative Response (Part 2)

Why did the lockdown happen, and what has our administration had to say about it? Read our exclusive interview with Mr. McKnight below.

January 10, 2023



How did Mentor High School respond? Mentor’s administrators evaluate our response.

After the December 15 lockdown at Mentor High School, the administration released the following statement:

Parents, guardians, students and staff, 

We have identified what triggered the emergency notification alert through our phone system at Mentor High School yesterday, which did not work in the way it is intended. We have already found a solution to correct the phone alarm system, and we want to share with you what happened.

Through the 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. This is clearly not how the system was designed to work. Working with our IT department and the phone company, we have put three safeguards in place to make sure this does not accidentally happen again. 

As we mentioned yesterday, we know this was a scary situation for many students, parents, guardians and staff. We are extremely grateful for the excellent response from our partners at the Mentor Police Department, who join us in keeping school safety the utmost priority in our community. The Mentor Fire Department was also on hand ready to respond immediately if needed as well. 

It is also important to note that our students and staff did everything they’ve been trained to do in an emergency situation. Their response is commendable. While we regret that this happened, we will also use this as an opportunity to reflect with our team and emergency responders and improve upon our safety procedures with what we’ve learned. 

Thank you for your continued support of our students, staff and schools. 


Craig Heath


Mentor Public Schools

Jason Crowe


Mentor High School

Last week, Mr. McKnight also released some basic information to the staff about lockdowns that he allowed Cardinal Nation to share.

Who can call a lockdown?

Mr. McKnight: Typically a lockdown is called by a school administrator or agent of law enforcement via announcement. A lockdown is called as opposed to ALICE if there is an intruder in the building in an unidentified location. ALICE is reserved for an active shooter emergency.

What should students do if they are outside the classroom, in the hallway/bathroom etc when a lockdown is called?

Mr. McKnight: Avoid the threat. Evacuate if it is safe to do so. Move far enough away to feel safe and call 911.  

What should students/staff do if an intruder attempts to gain entry into a classroom?

Mr. McKnight: With doors locked and barricades deployed it should be very difficult for an intruder to enter the classroom. During any attempt at entry it is important to remain silent to give the indication the area is vacant. If an intruder is able to gain entry students and staff should attempt to evacuate the classroom by distracting the intruder by throwing objects at the intruder and/or employing counter and swarm techniques to overwhelm the intruder.  

What should students/staff do if they are in the Student Center during a lockdown?

Mr. McKnight: Students and staff in the SC should move through the cafeteria into the boiler room during a lockdown.  If locking down is not possible students/staff should avoid the threat. Evacuate if it is safe to do so. Move far enough away to feel safe and call 911. 

What should students/staff do if they are in the FAC during a lockdown?

Mr. McKnight: Students/staff in the FAC during a lockdown should remain in the FAC and lockdown while remaining as silent as possible in order to give the indication the area is vacant. If locking down is not possible students/staff should Avoid the threat. Evacuate if it is safe to do so. Move far enough away to feel safe and call 911. 

What should students/staff do if they are in the HUB during a lockdown?

Mr. McKnight: Students/staff located in the HUB during a lockdown should move to the Makerspace room while deploying the barricade and remaining silent. 

Are lockdowns effective?

Mr. McKnight: Yes. Research shows the safest place to be in an armed assailant type situation is in a locked classroom. As with any active assailant strategy, lockdowns are an important component of an options based plan.

During a lockdown, once the door is locked and a barricade is deployed, what should I do if someone knocks on my door and says they are a staff member?

Mr. McKnight: Do not open the door for anyone once the door is closed and locked. The only exception is  if an agent of law enforcement accompanied by an administrator identifies themselves and slides identification under the door. Once any threat to the building has been cleared an announcement will be made indicating it is safe to open the door. 

What if someone knocks on my door and identifies themselves as an agent of law enforcement. Should I open the door?

Mr. McKnight: Any agent of law enforcement will slide identification under your door and answer questions from outside your door. Do not open your door otherwise unless authorized to do so via announcement.

What if the emergency alert tone comes over the loudspeaker, but no further directions are given? Should I lockdown or evacuate?

Mr. McKnight: In the event you hear the emergency bell tone with no further direction provided you should lockdown. An emergency alert tone without further information provided could indicate there is an immediate threat outside the building in which case evacuating should be avoided.

Given these administrative announcements to the staff and the community, Cardinal Nation had some additional questions for Mr. McKnight who is the unit principal in charge of the safety protocols. His exclusive interview responses are below:

Cardinal Nation: How might our drills change as a result of this experience?

Mr. McKnight: The signal for each of our drills (fire, tornado, ALICE, lockdown) will not change. Going forward we will plan to incorporate training for students within each classroom on how to deploy barricades should students find themselves in a classroom with multiple entry points or in a situation where the supervisor is unable to deploy the barricade. This will allow for a more efficient lockdown in order for all students to be safe. We will also be incorporating more talking points within each lockdown or ALICE drill (similar to the talking points we had during the December 5th lockdown drill) in order to address questions such as what to do if a lockdown occurs when a student is in lunch or outside of the classroom.

Cardinal Nation: How effective do you believe ALICE was in this instance? Do you think more people should have evacuated? 

Mr. McKnight: Thursday’s (December 15) incident was not an ALICE drill as ALICE alerts are reserved for active shooter emergencies that call for specific instructions provided after the Amber alert tone to describe a situation where the threat is in a specific area of the building. Thursday’s incident was a lockdown due to the Amber alert tone being triggered without any additional information provided at the time. A lockdown occurs when there may be a threat within the building in an unidentified location.  Because the threat is in an unidentified location all students and staff within a classroom should lockdown. Any students or staff outside the classroom during the time of the incident should either evacuate or hide (whichever is the fastest way to safety based on each individual’s location in the building). Our priority is to ensure all students and staff are safe and studies have proved that locking down when in a classroom is the safest way to ensure safety.

Cardinal Nation: What is the district doing to make sure that the signal is not triggered on accident again?

Mr. McKnight: Following Thursday’s incident the district took immediate action to determine how the signal was triggered and how to ensure the signal is not erroneously triggered in the future.  This included changing the way the phone system is used to activate the alarm and following up with all staff on how the system will be used going forward. 

Cardinal Nation: What was your experience with the whole incident?

Mr. McKnight: I was initially alarmed and surprised when the alarm was triggered during Thursday’s incident however having been through numerous emergency drills (both evacuation and lockdown) I and the other administrators in the building relied on our training to think clearly and work with local law enforcement to clear each classroom and make sure all staff and students were safe. With that said, there were a few issues that came about during the incident and we are working to make sure these issues are corrected in the future.

Cardinal Nation: How do you think we can better prepare those in the Student Center and in the Hub?

Mr. McKnight: Staff have been trained for procedures for lockdowns, ALICE emergencies, tornadoes, and fire emergencies.  Students in the HUB are instructed to report to the maker space room for lockdowns while students in the student center are directed through the cafeteria into the boiler room for lockdowns. During Thursday’s incident many students evacuated out the back of the SC.

Cardinal Nation: What have the security guards learned from this situation?

Mr. McKnight: I believe all staff, teachers, security, and administrators learned a great deal from Thursday’s incident.

Cardinal Nation: How do you think the students handled the situation?

Mr. McKnight: I was very appreciative and not surprised that the majority of our students responded appropriately during Thursday’s incident. As I was walking around the Mentor Police securing the classrooms all students and staff were quiet within each classroom.

Cardinal Nation: Do you think we locked down fast enough?

Mr. McKnight: Most classrooms locked down immediately which was the appropriate response. Some classrooms were delayed in locking down however during a typical lockdown a member of the administration team would have followed up the Amber alert tone with specific instructions. Because there were no instructions provided there was some confusion from staff. We are working to correct this going forward.  

Cardinal Nation: Do you plan to implement more training to make sure the staff is better equipped?

Mr. McKnight: We are constantly exploring ways to deliver the most up to date training for all our staff in the event of emergency. For example, we learned during Thursdays incident we need to do a better job training our substitutes on how to interpret each alarm and what procedures to follow should an emergency alarm be activated.  

Cardinal Nation: How do you plan to make sure the subs are able to handle any emergencies that may arise?

Mr. McKnight:  We are planning to develop a tutorial on all essential information necessary for both emergencies and everyday activities for our substitutes. There is nothing more important than student and staff safety and we keep this at the forefront of all planning.  

Wednesday, January 11th, Mentor High School will have a lockdown drill for the first time since this incident. 

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