General Question

chyna's avatar

Is this totally out of control or just a sign of the times?

Asked by chyna (47714points) January 18th, 2013

My friend’s son is in the first grade and since the Sandy Hook grade school shooting, his class has been practicing a “code red” alert. This consists of the school calling a code red meaning a stranger has entered the building and all the kids have to cram into the bathroom and practice not talking or crying. Her son is now afraid to go to bed until his mother looks in the closet and bathroom for a stranger.
Is this going too far, or is it now the norm?

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44 Answers

bossob's avatar

In the late fifties/early sixties, we had air raid drills. (Just in case some rogue Commie decided to bomb us…in Ohio!) We would line up in the hallways facing the lockers, with our hands clasped behind our heads. There were more kids than lockers, so they made a second line of kids leaning against the first line who were against the lockers. Maybe you can imagine the giggling going on amongst the grade school kids, as the teachers tried in vain to maintain silence!

Your question is the first I’ve heard of code red drills; I say it’s a sign of the times.

chyna's avatar

@bossob Unfortunately I remember those drills and I wasn’t affected by them.

Ela's avatar

I think the code red has been around since 9–11. My kids say they have always practiced them at school.
I don’t know the child involved here but I think if any of my sons reacted the way your friend’s is, I’d be going into the school and finding out exactly how they are handling it and exactly what they are telling them. To me, something sounds off if he is being frightened this way.

Coloma's avatar

I’ve never heard of this. Of course my daughter graduated in 2005, but still.
Safety drills yes, evacuating in case of fire, but not cramming children into the bathroom and telling them not to cry or make any noise because a “stranger” is in the building.
I’d pull my child and home school them. I think that approach is tragic and damaging.

pleiades's avatar

In 2001. We had a bombing drill, earthquake drill (Southern California), evacuation plan after bombing plan. I agree, sign of the times.

Bill1939's avatar

As a young child in the ‘40s, I was terrified of imaginary monsters. But I was too afraid of my mother to tell her about them. I am sure that night lights were invented because of the commonness of childhood night terrors, and I doubt that many have been harmed learning to feel secure in darkness.

dxs's avatar

When I was in elementary school, we always had the stranger drill. We would all huddle up into a corner of the classroom and lock the doors and cover the windows. I never had a fear of it, but I don’t see it as totally out of control.

laineybug's avatar

The middle school I went to has Lock down drills where there’s a “stranger” in the building. We had to lock the doors, turn off the lights, and hide in an area of the room where no one could see you through the window in the door. I don’t think red alert drills are going to far, but maybe they shouldn’t be cramming kids into bathrooms for them.

blueiiznh's avatar

My Daughter was deeply sorrowed and had a hard time when her school did something in remembrance of the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.

A sign of the times, but in reality it is a needed drill. Sorry the little tyke is affected.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

This is, in my opinion, out of control. The way they are describing it is making it scary. I think they could probably phrase this more as an emergency drill, rather than, stranger is coming to get you drill.

Earthgirl's avatar

I am tempted to say that it is out of control…but then I think about my own childhood. There are always fears for children everywhere and some kids are more sensitive than others and will react with more stress related behavior than others. I was sensitive. I lived in a very suburban safe neighborhood and I worried about cat burglars and house fires! I used to think of what I would take if our house caught on fire and I had to grab something fast! I thought I would bring my little stuffed kitty, that was essential. But I can’t remember, as sensitive as I was, needing my parents to check the bathroom or closet for evil strangers lurking. This just seems like an extremely stressful situation for any child. Funny, monsters under the bed seem like less of a threat. Funny, but sad.

I hate to think that this is what we’ve come to. Yes, I heard horror stories in school about Commies too. I had nuns telling me that the Commies would drive chopsticks through our ears if they caught us! But that was a distant possibility. Something we needed to fend off. Not something that was already happening close to us. I think that was the loss on 9/11. Nothing since Pearl Harbor had threatened the security of our nation in any tangible way. We felt safe. And it’s sad that kids cannot feel safe in school, it’s horrible.And it’s even more horrible that they cannot feel secure in their own homes.

I think that when teachers do these drills they have to try very hard not to convey their anxieties to the children. There is nothing to be gained by it. Children will absorb the lesson just as well if they are told that they need to learn it but it is highly unlikely they are ever going to need it. I think that is the best approach to allay their anxieties and yet make sure they are prepared in the (hopefully) unlikely event that they are going to need to use the information.

I know this answer is sort of all over the place…sorry, it’s a very emotional subject for me. Hope it communicates something.

Ela's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Here it is a drill specifically for an intruder entering the building.I believe they practice it monthly. In the high school, the teacher locks the door, pulls the shade, turns out the lights and the kids are all to keep quiet. In the middle school it’s the same drill except the kids hide behind the teachers desk. How many 7th graders can actually fit behind a teachers desk is beyond me but hey, that’s what they do.

chyna's avatar

@Ela Per the little boy, this has been practiced daily. To me, that is too much.

Ela's avatar

@chyna wow… I absolutely agree. He’s only in first grade? I’d be talking to the principle.

Pachy's avatar

In the ‘50s, my generation was made to feel very afraid of fires, tonadoes and atomic bombs, and we had all kinds of drills. Except for an occasional dream about being chased by a tornado (and I’m serious about that, not making a joke), I seem to have suffered no mental or psychological harm. Getting beat up by a school bully in 6th grade took care of that! Perhaps this code red thing is over the line, but I’m not sure it’s a bad idea.

Buttonstc's avatar

As a teacher, I can’t overstess how critical it is for the parents to temper what’s going on at school with their own perspective on it and to make it real to the kids in ways they can understand.

You know your own child far better than anyone else. And there is a HUGE difference between how 7th graders view things vs. 1st graders.

Older kids are much more realistic about the relative rarity of events happening in the rest of the world coming to impinge upon their own.

They realize fully the difference between it COULD happen vs. it WILL happen.

Little kids simply don’t have enough life experience yet to make these distinctions. To them, it’s just a matter of time before it WILL happen in their world. (At least that’s how they see it)

Parents need to continuously reassure young kids that it’s so highly unlikely to happen in their immediate world tomorrow.

You do whatever it takes. 7th graders know how truly big the USA and the world in general is.

1st graders have yet to find out. That’s where parents take over. If it means getting out a map or counting how many schools there are in your state alone and then extrapolating to X 50 states to give them am idea of how many schools there really are.

You have to figure out the best way to change your childs mindset from “WHEN a stranger comes” to “IF a stranger comes”.

They really need to realize these code reds are practice for IF (just in case) rather than the inevitable WHEN.

You could also try an analogy to fire drills. How often have they ever heard of a fire I’m a school. But they still do fire drills just in case.

The closer you can link it to something concrete with which they are familiar, the better they will be able to frame it accurately.

And it SHOULD go without saying that you should not allow the TV on playing news footage of something like Sandy Hook when little kids can see it.

Watch at night after they’re asleep. Do not subject them to it. They just can’t process it. For little kids like that everything is concrete and immediate. They are just beginning to grapple with the. Concepts of time, for crying out loud.

Plus, I definitely agree that everday drills are way over the top. You need to have a conference with whomever iinstituted this policy.

Earthgirl's avatar

@Buttonstc You express it so well. That is what I was trying to get at. The attitude should be that of “just in case”.

augustlan's avatar

My kids all had these drills in school, and I think it’s reasonable to practice them occasionally. Daily is ridiculous, and may even prove counterproductive in the event of an actual emergency. The school may be doing something that’s scaring the younger kids, but it could also be that he’s a particularly anxious child. A friend of mine had a daughter with anxiety, and every time her school had a fire drill the girl froze in place in started screaming. Obviously, that’s not the average response to things like this. Therapy and medication helped that girl.

hopeful5141's avatar

Oh wow, this just really saddened me! We know the world is cruel, but now such young children need to know now too. I remember my mother talking about the under the desk drills during the cold war. She too recalled being frightened and having problems at home. Back then parents did not share too much with their children, so… She did get over it, and no harm done. I guess, today, we have this. I think of the the film “Life is Beautiful” where the father made it a game to protect his son’s innocence… It is sad that we must do these things, but prepared children probably stand a better chance of surviving any serious situation. Much as it saddens me that children are being asked to do this, I understand why…

Buttonstc's avatar

I think it’s pretty easy for adults to forget how concrete and literal a viewpoint that kids have at that age.

I mean, Santa Claus is so real to them that it translates to the boogeyman (stranger) equally. If Santa can find them in their house and come down the chimney, then why not a stranger with a gun? That is literally how they think.

Can you tell I’m not a big fan of perpetuating the Santa myth? I still had some third graders (8–9 yrs. old) just beginning to realize and asking me if Santa was real.

I finally got tired of it and sent home a letter near the beginning of the school year (around Pre-Halloween when we did a pretty elaborate production also requiring a brief research paper requiring parental help) advising them that it was about time to set the record straight with their kid about Santa. If they failed to do so, I would be refusing to lie to their kid if asked about it. That did the trickl :)

But this Code Red thing is for the entire school, right?

I’m sure they’re trying to get it right (because IF it ever happens it really is a matter of life and death) but they’re forgetting to temper the impact on these really young kids.

Speak to the individual teacher also and ask them to focus more on the “just in case” and less on the boogeyman.

A little Geography lesson on just how big all these United States really are (and the humongous number of schools) wouldn’t do any harm either.

It’s a shame that their innocence has been shattered but unfortunately it is a sign of the times.

But if it were my own child, I would also be telling them to be very watchful for any chance to get the hell out of there and run like the wind. Just make sure nobody sees them.

One of the Sandy Hook kids saved his own life by doing precisely that. I believe he was 8 yrs old. Good for him.

The sitting duck approach doesn’t sit well with me. But it’s really difficult to know what to do in situations like that. But I wouldn’t want any child of mine to just robotically obey. I’d want him to use his brain and power of observation as well.

glacial's avatar

@Buttonstc You raise a good point. What if mom and dad advise to run away, and teacher advises to sit behind her desk? You would think there would be some kind of meeting with parents beforehand to straighten out details like this so that everyone is providing the same instructions.

Buttonstc's avatar

I don’t know that that is realistically possible. Schools have decided their policies and the consensus seems to be duck and cover and shut up.

(as an interesting little side note here: when I was in school I knew how bogus those nuclear bomb drills were. Totally useless. It’s radiation for crying out loud. We are all toast and hiding under our desks wouldn’t be doing any good when that giant mushroom cloud hit. But I guess it made the teachers feel better that they were doing something to prepare, regardless of how ineffective it was :)

But the parallel to me in terms of obedience to authority is situations of child abuse. The kids who are the most obedient (and emotionally needy) are the biggest targets. Kids need to know that it’s OK to follow their deepest gut instincts because they’re right regardless of who the authority is. Not an easy job but necessary IMHO.

Even as a teacher of third graders I did not require blind obedience. They were free to ask me about any of the rules we had and why (as long as they weren’t being snotty about it).

Its a delicate balancing act between teaching your kid respect for authority and thinking for themselves.

If the school has decided that they’re policy is hide and hope for the best, it’s going to be difficult to change their minds.

But if I were a teacher at that school, I would certainly be asking why the policy couldn’t be everybody run in every direction possible. It’s a lot harder to hit a moving target rather than fish in a barrel.

But authorities prefer an authoritarian approach. They forget that what saves lives in a fire (orderly evacuation, avoid panic, etc.) might be costing lives when a shooter is there.

Either way some lives will be lost. It’s just a question of how many, how quickly and how easily. No sense making it easier for the shooter.

And if they could get these damn high capacity clips out of such easy access thus requiring the nitwit to pause and reload more often, that may help matters also.

But I know I’d be advising any kid of mine to follow their gut instinct. Do what you’re told within reason but quietly escape if you have the chance.

It’s not a perfect answer but it’s better than meekly waiting to
be shot.

That’s just my personal opinion and I’m sure every school administrator disagrees with me. And every situation is unique. That’s why it’s so important to teach kids independent thought and keen observation in the face of danger.

jca's avatar

To me, doing any drill on a daily basis is over the top. I would call the school or go see the Principal if I were you, and see why they think it’s necessary to have the drill every day. Tell them about your son’s reaction and see what they say.

Bellatrix's avatar

I can see the need to be prepared for such a situation and doing these drills once every couple of months at most. Daily is overkill and can’t be healthy for those children. Do they have fire drills daily? Which is most likely to happen a fire or a person entering the school to harm them?

JLeslie's avatar

I think doing a drill once a quarter is fine. We all did some sort of drill when we were in school I would think. I liked drills, it meant class was interupted, no school for 15 minutes. But, for little kids, being completely silent in that situation would probably be difficult. It might be overkill? The reality of a mass murderer opening fire in a school is still extremely rare, but so horrific when it does happen.

I would find out just how they are presenting it to the children. Are they giving details about the bad person? He is going to hurt the kids, has a gun, etc. They don’t need to say all that, they can just run the drill.

I never felt afraid of things hiding in the closet or strangers if I was with adults I trusted, but my mom certainly let me know there were bad people out there and basic stranger danger. I was very nervous that bad people could hurt me, but I was of course very rarely alone as a very small child.

I think some children are affected very differently than others in cases like this also. Some kids are more nervous in general, take things more seriously, or can be more obsessve.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

“Code Red” has been in several schools systems for a while. Lock down practices at schools have a reason, the real lock down can be used if their has been a violent crime or bank robbery has happened in the area.

dxs's avatar

@chyna I agree. After you mentioned daily, that’s certainly too much. I think that along with your son’s problems, it will also leave the impression on first graders that school is dangerous, making it all the more scary and overwhelming.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Sorry, but what the fuck?

As a schoolkid in the UK, I never once had any kind of drill of this kind; either America is fuill of stalkers and killers and guns, or there’s something of an over-reaction going on.

Actually, it’s probably both.

Coloma's avatar

@the100thmonkey You pretty much nailed it. Horrible what these times are becoming. I’m ready for a tree house in the jungle somewhere. Better real snakes in the trees than the sociopathic snakes america is fast becoming infamous

glacial's avatar

Part of me wonders if a few of these kids dream of being the star of this show – the person everyone else is training to be afraid of. Could drills like this create more problems than they solve?

antimatter's avatar

Nope not the end of times but the beginning of bad times to come!
Think about it what we do for entertainment…most of us own first person shooter games and other fighting titles, we play these games where we kill in a game for fun, sport or entertainment. As a society we are so deeply involved in these games that we find it almost acceptable the see people die. Hollywood makes millions a year on films and tv shows where people get killed in the most gruesome manner imaginable, we buy toys for our kids that’s weapons in their minds. And when they play they shout “I am going to kill you” or “dad check my destroyer” when he builds something with his Lego blocks
We as humans are programed from child hood to be blood thirsty.
It is in our nature to be monsters.
Than you get a disgruntled person with a gun and start terrorizing people… than we ask
why? I believe it’s society’s fault there is only three religions who believes in the end of days, I am not going to believe in the end of days. We as humans find our moral value again one day when we find a balance in the Universe.

Mariah's avatar

I think it’s a sign that our times are totally out of control.

flutherother's avatar

I wouldn’t want my kids to be in such a school. They are going to learn paranoia and I can’t see this training being helpful in a real situation which is unlikely ever to occur.

Buttonstc's avatar


This is an overreaction specifically to the school shooting in Connecticut recently where 20 very young children and several adults were killed in a few minutes time by a nutjob with a military style weapon with a high capacity bullet clip. Not sure how much of the details about that made it’s way across the pond

Following something similar in a school in Dunblane Scotland several years ago they soon banned guns altogether. Obviously that won’t fly here in USA as that’s just a bridge too far

And yet, America is still debating whether or not to ban JUST these types of weapons and ammo. Go figure.

But you guys over in the UK don’t have Wayne LaPeirre and the NRA to contend with. Their solution is to have armed personnel in every school , in other words more guns, not less. Yeah we do have our own brand of insanity over here ~

JLeslie's avatar

@the100thmonkey I’m 45 years old and never had drills like that either. We just did fire drills, which were the same as bomb threat drills. We just all walked out of the school and waited outside until we were allowed back in.

FreshlyBaked's avatar

A daily drill of this sort demonstrates a society out of control. The question is out of control of what?

Well, it seems like there’s a lot to answer here, and I certainly don’t know it all. Here’s what I do know:

We have lost a sense of responsibility in the last 50 years in the US. I’m not talking about the kind of personal responsibility that would get a kid a whipping from their dad. I’m talking about a sense of societal responsibility we had when we came together and built the interstate highway system, the largest engineering feat in the history of mankind. It’s also the kind of societal responsibility we had that put a man on the moon.

Our national history is a mix of rugged individualism. The kind of individualism that won the West is what I mean. We also have a great common bond because of our democratic heritage. We had no lords and ladies, no kings and queens. Somehow, our rugged individualism has gotten mixed up with a sick strain of me-against-the-world, and we forgot our equality.

Our history is rooted in Puritanism. Whether we like it or not, we are perfectionists at heart. All Americans are, and it sets us up for a mighty fall.

I could ramble on for hours, but I won’t. Some really good things have been said above.

orlando's avatar

Another view from continental Europe.

This to me looks really sad. We never had any kind of drills of this kind either, and schools here are open for everyone to come in at any time if he so wishes. We had zero school shootings and the only kidnappings we experienced were very rare occasions where one of the parents (arguing over custody) came and took his child away.

As I see it, this kind of drills, security measures and almost yearly(?) school shootings are just the very high price US citizens are willing to pay for their free and unlimited access to guns. Which unfortunately—looking at cold facts and numbers—does actually make you less safe than other Western countries where this “right” is not available.

Gabby101's avatar

Americans are optimistic and believe they can fix any problem. This kind of “training” makes people feel better because admitting there is nothing you can do is too upsetting. Like after 9–11, when people wanted to require that buildings be built to survive direct hits by airplanes.

JLeslie's avatar

Why do people keep saying daily drills? I must have missed something? I don’t recall reading these drills are daily?

chyna's avatar

@JLeslie I replied to @Ela about 15 answers down that it was daily.
I don’t know how to link to my answer.

JLeslie's avatar

Thanks. Daily is ridiculous. Why would a drill be done daily?

Plus, when the CT shooting was happening it seems the kids kept quiet who were hiding with the teachers. I don’t remember a teacher saying after the fact, “the kids wouldn’t sit still, wouldn’t keep quiet.” I don’t know if that school had practiced those drills before, but even young children know what something is very scary and real and not a drill.

Bellatrix's avatar

I agree with those people who have said they wouldn’t leave their child in a school that did this on a daily basis. I can see having ‘stranger danger’ drills once a year or every few months even but no more than that. I seem to recall my child’s school doing something similar for when there was a source of danger and the children needed to stay in the classrooms until the danger passed.

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