POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 49 NEW GLASGOW — It was halfway through morning classes at North Nova Education Centre in New Glasgow, and none of the high school’s 900 students could be seen. The darkened classrooms were locked and silent, and no movement — not even a glow from a computer screen — could be seen through the windows. No one answered when police tapped authoritatively on classroom doors. Offices, hallways, cafeteria and common areas were deserted. And that’s the way it should be in a lockdown, said Const. Ken MacDonald of New Glasgow police, who launched Wednesday’s “code blue” drill, the school’s first this term, to simulate the entry of a dangerous intruder. Both students and teachers have to be trained to respond quickly, he said. “They lock the door and close the drapes, and you can’t see into the classrooms,” he said. Lynn MacLean, family of schools supervisor for the Chignecto-Central regional school board, echoed the officer’s description. “If I’m an intruder and I come down looking for people, I can’t find anyone,” she said. Minutes after the lockdown was called, police and school staff finished patrolling the building and pronounced the site all clear. As if by magic, classroom lights switched on, doors opened and staff and students emerged from their hiding places. Before a half-hour had passed, the drill was a memory — except for police and staff, who would pore over every aspect to look for ways to improve. In-school safety used to mean annual fire drills, but campus violence, beginning with the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999, changed attitudes about student security, said Const. Mark Young of Halifax Regional Police. “That was the turning point for all of us, right across North America,” said Const. Young, who is also the provincial school safety adviser in charge of developing security protocols for Nova Scotia schools. The most-feared school violence, involving a stranger-intruder, is the least likely to happen, but drills based on that scenario makes a school more ready to handle other threats, ranging from violent acts by its own students to a power outage. “The more it’s practised; the more second nature it becomes,” Const. Young said, adding that the North Nova model is similar to others in Nova Scotia but tailored to its unique circumstances. Lessons from North Nova’s exercise can help other jurisdictions and vice versa, he said. Student safety involves both prevention and response, but it’s impossible to stop people from entering school buildings, he said. Instead, teachers and students need to be able to identify and assess potentially threatening behaviour. “Students know a lot of the time when incidents are going to take place,” he said, adding that sharing the information would protect schoolmates and teachers, and get help for the perpetrator. The nature of youth violence — whether it’s increasing or decreasing, or whether girls are more involved than boys — is mostly about perception, Const. Young said. “If fear is increased, we have to address that. “Students have to feel safe,” he said. “Drills make students feel safer because they know what to do. They don’t panic.” ( As originally published The Chronicle Herald October 11, 2007 By MONICA GRAHAM Lockdown Drill Trains Kids to Handle Emergencies ʻStudents have to feel safe. Drills make students feel safer because they know what to do. They donʼt panic.ʼ CONST. MARK YOUNG Halifax Regional Police