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What do Forsyth County students think about code red drills?
Code Red Drill 050119 web
When a code red occurs, all of the desks in the classroom are pushed up against the door to make it difficult for an intruder to gain access into the room. (Photo by Ashleigh Stemple)

This article was written by the Forsyth Central High School student in partnership with Forsyth County News.

By Ashleigh Stemple

For the Forsyth County News

School lockdowns have become prominent in American schools. The fear of a possible school shooting has caused an uproar of concerned staff, parents, and, most of all, students all demanding the same thing: safety in their schools.

This reaction is not lost on the residents of Forsyth County. The school system has assigned days for “code red lockdowns” to occur: A voice comes on the loudspeaker and repeats “code red, code red”; the staff then prepares students as if they were to encounter a shooter in the building. Teachers have also been provided with posters regarding what actions to take when there’s an actual threat in the building.

Forsyth County Schools has worked to prepare students and staff members for a real threat, but how do the students react to these lockdowns?

According to an analysis done by The Washington Post, “more than 4.1 million students endured at least one lockdown in the 2017-2018 school year alone.” Furthermore, their “final tally of lockdowns exceeded 6,200.”

The rising frequency of lockdowns is feared to cause anxiety in students. Even though these lockdowns could save lives, they can possibly bring fear into them, the Washington Post also found.

A study done at Western Michigan University corresponds to The Post’s findings. Bethney Bergh, the author of the text, included that “many teachers and students are now more fearful than ever before when they enter their school buildings each day.” She also went on to explain how students usually respond to a situation with four domains of the basic human response to danger, which are emotional, physiological, cognitive and behavioral.

Amber Gulbin and Rachel Jones, students at Forsyth Central High School, don’t find code red drills to cause anxiety. Neither one of them panic during a code red drill, nor do they believe anyone else does.

“I think actually having them doesn’t affect [students] in the moment,” Jones said. “I do think that needing them has an emotional effect on students.”

Gublin and Jones don’t believe students take code red drills seriously, which overall increases the threat level of an actual danger in a school building.

“People are on their phones,” Jones said. “People treat it like a drill.”

Drills normally take place once every six months in Forsyth County Schools, according to their website, to go through the necessary procedures that occur during the lockdowns.

When a code red occurs, all of the desks in the classroom are pushed up against the door to make it difficult for an intruder to gain access into the room. The students then cover the windows, turn off all the lights, and make their way to the back of the classroom to stay as far away from the door as possible.

Todd Shirley, the chief operations officer of Forsyth County Schools, said that code red drills don’t start a panic in the schools because of how the staff indicates that a code red drill will occur before it actually does.

When asked if the staff believes that code red drills help students prepare for an actual threat to the school, Shirley said how successful a code red drill is depends on how serious the administration takes it.

 “I’m sure that a code red obviously brings an emotional awareness of a possible threat on campus,” Shirley said. “Some parents do check their kids out when they know a code red drill is going to occur.”

Shirley also said that Forsyth County Schools informs students that, if it is only a drill, there is not an actual threat in the building.

“We either begin with a code yellow [drill] or we let the students know that there is going to be a code red drill,” Shirley said.

When asked if he was afraid if there would ever be a danger to the school or a threat somewhere in the school building, he said no. Shirley said he trusts the school resource officers and staff of Forsyth County Schools to protect their students and other administration.