On Monday morning, a Payson High School student was seen handling a shotgun on school grounds. The student didn't threaten anyone. He told police he'd gone rabbit hunting last weekend and had forgotten to take the shotgun out of his vehicle.
But when a school administrator spotted the student with the weapon, school officials placed the high school and Rim Country Middle School on "lockdown" as a precaution. A school lockdown, which is used by schools around the country to control panic and keep students safe during emergencies, means that a "code blue" is announced and all the classroom doors are locked.
The alert lasted 10 minutes Monday and the student was arrested.
Some students thought the lockdown was unnecessary and the school staff overreacted. But as parents, we believe the decision was wise. Given the climate of concern created by the schoolyard and classroom tragedies that have rocked the nation in recent years, school officials are right to handle all weapons violations seriously and consistently -- no matter how small the offenses might seem.
In the event of a real threat, school officials will only have a few seconds to make decisions that could save lives and maintain order. A few seconds can make all the difference. We commend our school administrators for their resolve and hope they'll have the support of students and parents for their decision to implement the lockdown.
The district's emergency strategy is, however, lacking in one important area. It leaves parents and students feeling uninformed and frustrated.
After Monday's lockdown, students were not collectively told what caused the emergency nor were they reassured as a student body that things were under control.
Students were left to rely on the gossip spreading throughout the classrooms -- stories that evolved into something much more frightening and sensational than a young man who forgot to take his hunting gun out of his car before going to school.
Parents also were left to wonder and worry when their children came home with the embellished tales they'd picked up in class.
We recommend the school board enhance its safety policy to include a process for promptly informing parents and students about incidents that take place in our public schools. Perhaps a brief, but accurate explanation could be announced over the public address system and short memos could be sent home to parents. No names would have to be mentioned.
In the past, parents have received letters from teachers notifying them that their children may have been exposed to measles or chicken pox. Parents deserve the same courtesy if their children are exposed to violence or fear -- real or perceived.