Lockdown Drills Sometimes Aren't Drills: Kelly Elementary School Shooting

By Megan Power on October 18, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

 Kindergarten students practicing a lockdown drill- Quietly sitting away from any windows and doors.

“Knowing how to respond quickly and efficiently in a crisis is critical to ensuring the safety of our schools and students. The midst of a crisis is not the time to start figuring out who ought to do what. At that moment, everyone involved — from top to bottom — should know the drill and know each other.”

—Margaret Spellings



We all have to do them. . . . The monthly fire drills and yearly lockdown drill are a part of our current day educational procedures. We all hope that we never actually have to implement these procedures for real, but practicing them gives us peace of mind. We know that if we ever do have to use them, things will go smoothly and our students and staff will be safe.

On Friday, October 8, 2010, the lockdown drills practiced at Kelly Elementary School of Carlsbad, CA, paid off. At 12:12, during lunch, a lone gunman walked onto campus and began shooting at children playing on the playground. (See the time line of events here.) Thanks to the quick response of teachers, students, noon duties, construction workers, and nearby community members, this incident was not as tragic as it could have been. Two young students, one 6 and the other 7, were shot in the arm and are recovering.



When incidents like this occur it is natural to take what you have seen and reflect on your school crises plan. What did Kelly Elementary do well that prevented this from being more tragic then it was? One answer that my school staff discussed was they were vigilant. Many staff members and community members noticed the person coming onto campus that didn’t belong. I also think they were prepared from their practice drills. The staff got students inside from the playground and locked down in less then 3 minutes. All the news reports share how calmly the whole situation with lockdown and releasing students went. Teachers and students were prepared for how to respond quickly and calmly.

As you relook at your school’s crisis plan, check out this great free resource: Practical Information on Crisis Planning- This is an excellent resource for creating and relooking at your school or community's crisis response plan. It is 132 pages of suggestions and guides to help make your school crisis plan safe and effective.

Teacher Tips

I put crayons, paper, a few books, and lollipops in my red emergency backpack to give my students something to do in case of an emergency. Lollipops are great because they are comforting and help to calm students down while keeping them satisfied.

I also have a bottle of water, some timy bathroom drinking cups, and a box of crackers in case students were hungry during an emergency. If an emergency were to occur it usually will be a good amount of time before students can be released to parents and we all know hungry kids do not equal happy kids.

Our district requires us to have first aid equipment along with allergy information and emergency students contact information in our red backpacks. These tools have already come in handy several times when on a class trip.


This particular incident at Kelley Elementary School was an outsider with no connection to the elementary school. Many other school shootings are directly connected. We also have recently seen stories in the news about student suicides as a result of cyberbullying. Please read the blog post by my colleague Christy Crawford about cyberbullying.

Here are some other resources about school violence, internet safety, and cyberbullying:

Timeline of School Shootings, School Violence, On Guard (Tips for internet security, games and videosabout unline safety), Media Awareness Network (Includes media issues and educational games) Gamequarium's Internet Safety for Kids games.

As teachers, community members, and human beings we have the responsibility and obligation to keep our children safe.



Hi Megan, I really like your tips on how to best prepare for a lockdown. As a Kindergarten Teacher, I was very concerned on how my young students would react to a lockdown drill. I have written a story, 'Lia-Ria and the Lockdown Drill' that puts a lighthearted spin on a serious subject, opens up the lines of communication between parents/teachers and students, and puts childrens' fears at ease. You can find 'The Adventures of Lia-Ria' on Facebook. I would love to hear your feedback about my book. Thanks Megan!

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