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Find lessons in crisis

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Editorial: May 9, 2013

ISSUE: School safety scare
OUR VIEW: Learning in wake of false report

The Elizabethtown Independent Schools community was tested last week. Just after 9 a.m. May 1, someone called 911 and reported a person at T.K. Stone Middle School was carrying a gun.

The words spoken in that call surely are stuff of nightmares for any parent, teacher, student or police officer. It’s hard to imagine the urgency and pressure felt by those who had to react.

After the call, the middle school and the connected Morningside Elementary School went into lockdown. All building doors were locked and students were confined to their classrooms.

Thankfully, the Elizabethtown Police Department officers who responded found no gun. Instead, they found the student who made the call. He was charged with falsely reporting an incident and disorderly conduct.

To call this student’s action unfortunate is an understatement. Details on the child’s motive or intentions have not been revealed, but it’s certain this action caused needless terror.

Lessons can be learned from this false alarm. For one, it presents an opportunity for parents and teachers to talk to children about the cruelty and serious consequences of pranks.

Also, all those involved now have an opportunity for some personal reflection. We’ve heard about heroes in school shootings. They’ve often been ordinary people who found strength to shepherd children through a crisis. They were calm, they clung to protocol, they made good choices.

Drilling for natural disasters and fires no longer is enough. Heartbreaking but wise, lockdown policies are a necessity. Partnering with police and parents, school officials can ensure staff and students know what to do and practice will improve their response.

Yet, no simulation can fully prepare a person, child or adult, for aggressive violence in a school setting. In the wake of a situation such as this — when a very real fear existed — it’s a time to reflect on what went right, what could have been done differently, if the leadership was there, if the resources needed were there. It’s a time for personal assessment and for coaching.

It was a false report, but a test no less. To the police, district staff and students who weathered it effectively, well done.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.