Code Lockdown: Inside a Lowcountry Classroom

March 20, 2018, 10:40 am EST | Share:

SANGAREE, SC (ALEX HEATON, WTAT-TV) — School shootings have been dominating the headlines in recent weeks and leaders have been stepping up security measures. But sometimes things do slip under the radar and that has parents worried. We went to a Lowcountry school to get a closer look at their lockdown protocol.

It was free-write and fractions day for Jill Patrick’s third-grade class. The former teacher of the year at Sangaree Intermediate School in Berkeley County knows her classroom is her student’s second home.

“They’re my babies once they walk in the door, and they’re my babies once they leave,” she said.

She is young, and she’ll admit that school is not like what many of us grew up with.

“You write your name on your paper, you hear lockdown, you know where to go,” Patrick said. “It doesn’t matter where you are. At the end of the day, they’re ready.”

Just like the earthquake and fire drills of her generation, lockdown drills for intruders and active shoots are the new norm.

“We practice them,” she said. “It’s natural. They know we’re going to do this, and they know at the end of the day I’m not going to let anything happen to them.”

FOX 24 went inside the school during a staged lockdown drill.

During which, Patrick tells her students to stay calm, sit quietly, and daydream.

“Kids follow you,” she explained. “They’re going to see if you’re nervous, then they know to be nervous. If you’re calm, then they know it’s ok. As a teacher, you just try to stay calm and make sure that they feel comfortable and safe in your classroom.

Everyone at the school has a role, and there is no time to hesitate.

“If something happens in real life, we don’t have time to say should I do this, should I do that,” said Principal Angel Siegling. “It’s got to be practiced habit. It’s got to be common sense or a feeling in the gut.”

That is what Siegling and the staff at Sangaree Intermediate, and all Berkeley County Schools, have been trained to do. Be confident and calm and prepare students for growing up in today’s world.

“It could happen at the movie theater. It could happen at the mall. It could happen at the airport,” said Siegling. “But, it could happen here at school. We need to prepare our kids for all of those. Anywhere that they go in life, just to be aware. Not to be scared. We don’t want anyone to be scared but we want them to be aware, to know the procedures and to know what to do.”

It’s a world that has changed a lot since Siegling started her career at Sangaree Intermediate more than 30 years ago. “Whenever we first started, all doors were open and doors to classrooms were open,” she explained. “I don’t really like having all of our interior doors locked. We don’t want students to feel like they’re in a jail, but at the same time we have to be safe.”

A world where the news of schools shootings is a weight our teachers carry with them into the classroom each day.

“It breaks my heart for those teachers because these kids become your kids,” said Patrick. “That always weighs on you, but it also reminds you to stay vigilant and make sure you’re on top of your game and you know second nature that you know exactly what you’re going to do if that ever happens, and just pray it never does.”

Administrators want parents to know they play a role in their children’s safety too. “I know they appreciate all of the security features that we have,” said Knight. “They appreciate everything that we are doing,” said Knight. “We do need their support because they help us reinforce those rules, guidelines, and procedures that we have.”

It’s hard work that never stops to keep our students safe.