Centennial school shooting: Another tragedy

Image caption Lockdown drills have become a fact of life for schoolchildren

Add Centennial, Colorado, to the list. Another town touched by tragedy, as shots are fired inside a school. Two students have been injured, and the suspected shooter is dead by his own hand.

Across the country, schools practise for just such an event - and administrators and teachers leap into action when the order is given.

Last year, my 9-year-old son's school went into lockdown. He described it to me that evening in matter-of-fact tones.

He and his fellow elementary school classmates were led into the school's lunch hall and told to sit in the middle of the room. Stay quiet, their teachers warned them. Don't get too close to any windows. They waited for about half an hour, until given the all-clear sign, and then returned to their daily routine.

Later, I found out that the cause was a bank robbery about a mile away. The suspect had escaped, and school district policy dictated all nearby schools should take preventative measures. Better safe than sorry, as they say - and I agree. And yet…

The day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting one year ago Saturday, the local police put a cruiser and a couple of officers by my son's school. Just to show the badge and reassure parents. I was reassured. And yet…

Is this the world we now live and raise children in, where US schools are defended like small forts?

BBC's David Botti reports on the steps schools around the US have taken to improve security and help prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook, including establishing more detailed lockdown procedures. He found that there have been at least 130 separate incidents of school or college lockdowns just in the past month.

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Media captionThe BBC has found that at least 130 US schools went into lockdown in a month because of a perceived threat. Is it panic - or preparedness?

"Once upon a time, the term lockdown was associated with prisons," he says. Now, however, it's part of our education vernacular.

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick writes about the lockdown practises that every school administrator is now intimately familiar with. She asks: "What is it teaching our kids?"

"We routinely terrify and traumatize them in an effort to spare our kids terror and trauma," she writes. "We create realistic drills complete with fake cops and shootings in order to impress upon our kids that armed deranged gunmen are what? Really scary? I think they may already know that."

She worries that lockdown planning is giving us a false sense of security and preventing us from considering other, more effective ways of preventing school shootings.

"In the absence of a public policy solution, or any kind of collective will to find a public policy solution, we just make a decision to treat armed killers in schools as we previously treated fires and tornadoes: as acts of God instead of failures of legislative and moral courage," she writes.

Karen E Dempsey in the New York Times writes about having to comfort her daughter after a lockdown drill. She wonders if the drilling is doing more harm than good:

Why are we doing this? I wonder. The stakes could not be higher, I know. Newtown remains raw in our consciousness. Of course I want the teachers to prepare, as much as anyone can, for violence. But do we really have to take it this far?

In Centennial, the lockdown procedures, practiced time and again, may have saved lives. If so, then it's hard to argue that the guidelines and drills and precautions aren't worth it.

My son says he wasn't scared when his school went into lockdown. It was just another part of the modern education routine. Somehow, I don't find that reassuring.