Schools in Crisis, Social Media, and Teacher Communication

Last Friday, all schools in the district were sent into lockdown mode. The sheriff’s office passed this notice on to schools:

We have been informed by the Sheriff’s Office that they are searching for an armed black male, possibly injured, last known to be near Lake Monticello Road.

I don’t know how all of the schools immediately responded, as I was at the high school that day. I was with a teacher when the call came over the system for a lockdown, which meant going into the science storage space between two rooms with the teacher I was with, as well as the class from next door. We waited for a few minutes before the announcement came over the intercom that we were in modified lockdown. This meant that teachers were to keep teaching, and no students were to be allowed in the hallways.

Time ticked onward. Elementary schools and the middle school were near dismissal. All buses were being held. An hour later, it was time for the high school dismissal, but nothing had been said yet. We were stuck at school until further notice. It was near 4:30 that we were taken out of lockdown. Student drivers were released, and then buses were to load up at 4:30. Traffic became crazy, as not only were parents, buses, student drivers, and teachers trying to leave at the same time, but evening commute was gearing up as well.

Throughout all of this, we had our social media pages running and not running. The main district page did well at first with updates, but as time went on, there was no one to answer simple parent questions. They did update near the end. I kept the middle school and high school pages running as best I could. I would add in the announcements that were made, and steal anything from the district page that should have been passed on. Both of the elementary pages were silent. This is likely due to the fact that the people who run them are teachers that are stuck in their rooms or keeping students calm and under control during times like these.

Teachers themselves were a bit in the dark. There was a lack of communication from administration as to how to proceed, what they should tell the kids, or even what was going on. Many teachers found out via the school alert that was sent to phones or via social media. Students heard things in the hallway when they were taken to the bathroom. Teachers were unaware of where their students ended up if they happened to be caught in the hallway when lockdown occurred.

After the event was over, our superintendent sent out an email thanking everyone for their cooperation, and mentioned that principals would be meeting with teams to go over details. If any of us had suggestions or thoughts, we needed to pass them on so they could be addressed. I responded because I felt that on the social media front, we hadn’t done a very good job of keeping parents informed.

In this day and age, it is social media that parents turn to in times of crisis to receive information, whether it’s related to a school or not. When schools are unable to give answers via social media, others step in to provide information, which is sometimes false and incorrect. An hour or two without news is an eternity during these times. We need to get our schools on board so that when these times occur, our social media platforms are ready to respond.

I’ve started bouncing around some ideas in my head as suggestions, and I passed these on to the superintendent as well for consideration. We all have to start somewhere, right?

  1. Crisis team member for social media- Every school’s crisis team (as well as the school board office) needs to have the addition of a social media respondent. It would be the responsibility of this person to pass on updates to social media accounts, as well as answer parent questions. There should be a backup person in case the main person is absent that day.
  2. SBO member leads the other social media members- It would be the job of the SBO member to make sure all other team members are kept aware of updates that need posted to their pages. They would keep in touch via email or some other system.

I think that these changes could assist in making sure our parents are kept updated on information happening in moments like these. Parents don’t need to know the classified information, but they do need to know updates of what’s going on, even if it’s just to alert parents that the same thing is still occurring that was happening 20 minutes ago.

As for the teachers, this is a time that we can use to set up a communication system that all teachers will turn to in times of crisis. Teachers need to be able to track where their students are, and they need to be aware of updates from administration. These updates would range from details of what exactly is going on, what to tell students (so that all students are told the same things/squelch rumors), and updates throughout. Teachers wouldn’t feel left in the dark and they would feel confident about how they are handling the situation.

Of course, these are just my suggestions, but I think they are definitely worth looking into so that whenever another crisis does arise, everyone is prepared and ready to respond.

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