Cellphones Are Changing School Emergency Plans
Once seen as a nuisance, student cellphones now figure into school security plans. Credit: iBjorn/Flickr
In the past, schools and cellphones didn't mix. Teachers saw them as a
distraction, and many schools banned their use in the classroom. But in
the wake of school shootings over the past 13 years, school districts
are beginning to change their policies.
Since the 1999 killings at
Columbine High School in Colorado, school districts and law enforcement
authorities have worked together on strategies to respond to violence
in schools. Plans include how to protect students inside buildings,
evacuate them and notify parents. Students and teachers practice
lockdown drills, steps to secure the school so that no one can enter or
And technology is a big part of more recent plans, now that cellphone use among kids
has grown. While most high school students wouldn't leave the house
without their phones, children just starting school have cellphones,
too. More than 1 in 10 kids between the ages of 6 to 10 already have
their own cell, according to data collected during the first six months
of 2012 by YouthBeat, a research firm that focuses on the use of
technology by kids from preschool up to age 18.
After the Chardon
High School shooting earlier this year, administrators at the small-town
school in Ohio reported that students used their phones call 911 and to
let their parents know they were safe. The school is now considering an
update to their plan called ALICE — which stands for alert, lockdown,
inform, counter, evacuate — in which cellphones play an important role.
instance, a mass text could direct students in case of a crisis.
Teachers might send a text telling students to move outside if an
intruder were at the opposite end of the building.
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uses for cellphones during an attack include sending texts to parents,
teachers and students with accurate information to help quell rumors and
as a way to manage traffic when parents converge on a school and can
block emergency responders.
The usefulness of cellphones in a
crisis is partly why many school districts now allow high school and
middle school students to carry their phones.
After the Newtown,
Conn., shooting, elementary schools could make the same allowance for
their students. And perhaps more parents would decide to give even their
youngest children phones of their own.
Interviewed on CNN, an
unnamed mother of a child who survived the Newtown shootings said,
"Let's go get her cellphone activated right now."
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