Opinion | A relook at last year’s lockdown

Mary Lister, Staff Writer

Dec. 16, 2021: COVID-19 cases were doubling, and it was somehow not that cold outside yet. It was early in 3rd period when, suddenly, a code red was announced. At that moment, the school goes on lockdown, and students are left wondering what exactly is happening.

People are stuck sitting in that moment, of being in between fear and uncertainty. Finally, after hours of rumors spreading like wildfire online, an announcement is made over the speaker that everything is okay, but we will be stuck where we are for just a bit longer. A bit longer soon became an extra hour and a half, but after a block of parents’ cars got jammed up outside, everyone was let out, and we all waited in online school after that, wondering what truly happened. 

 Now, almost a full year later, I still think that the ETHS administration and the police department did the wrong thing by calling the lockdown. The actuality of what happened was that three students were found smoking cannabis in the bathroom around 9:30 AM, and in their backpacks, two loaded guns and more cannabis was found. This triggered the lockdown that lasted up until 12:40 PM. While I understand that finding guns in someone’s backpack is a serious issue, calling the lockdown created much more panic than necessary. 

But, just last week, a student was found with a loaded gun, and all that we have publicly received was an emailed community notice. The situations are both so similar, but the responses were strikingly different because this year, the safety officers and administration did the right thing. They kept it between themselves and the student body in order to keep everything in control, but last year’s lockdown just escalated the entire situation. If any other students had actually possessed weapons, the lockdown would have made them feel unsafe and perhaps even pressured to use them. While a lockdown is understandably needed when student safety is threatened, sometimes the lockdown itself can threaten student safety. 

The entire lockdown caused unneeded stress that could have been avoided if safety just made an announcement, without a lockdown, that a weapon was found but not used. While in the moment, I do not completely blame the police department for being worried about a larger operation, it would have been better to take the search steady and stably, since while a lockdown does get more police available, it also alerts potential threats that they are in danger. Additionally, if they desperately needed to call a lockdown, they needed to assure people that everyone was safe, because in actuality, everyone was stuck for a entire hour, convinced that they could be murdered at any moment.

I still remember being surrounded by people crying and panicking because they genuinely thought they might die, just because the administration called a soft lockdown. This whole situation has also created an environment where students no longer fully trust safety notices, and I’m sure that if a real lockdown actually happened, some people might not believe it, and this has frayed most students’ already hesitant relationship with school police. There is also the fact that the lockdown caused students in the moment to make a lot of rash decisions, since they genuinely thought there was an active shooter. An example of this is the fact that students escaped the school through windows, and then climbed down roofs, when there wasn’t actually an active shooter.

If students are found with weapons, steps should be taken to secure student safety, but 4,000 other people being stuck in small rooms for three hours, thinking they might die for the first hour of it, is not the way to go. ETHS and the student resource officers need to continue to keep these issues under control and safe for everyone, and what they did last year was the complete opposite of that. This is something that they need to apologize for, because while no one died or was hurt, it was still a lockdown, and it was still trauma, and that can’t just be fixed with a community notice email.