Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Lockdown of the School Year

File this under the "that didn't take long" department.  And no, the dog biting incident at Crocker Farm Elementary School last week doesn't count since the school did not go into lockdown.  Although it was a traumatic enough incident.

Sometimes saying only a little about an incident is worse than saying nothing at all.  And in the Amherst Public School system, you never have to worry about them saying too much.

Obviously parents who received this email are wondering why the heck an entire elementary school would enter lockdown simply because one child "fell ill" on the playground.

Click to enlarge/read

What the heck was the illness, Flesh-eating bacteria?

Last year was a travesty of loony lockdowns.  This year is not starting well.

ARPS Employee Handbook procedures


Anonymous said...


It could simply be that the child in question had a seizure or fit of some kind. This is an experience best not witnessed by lots of children (I know from personal example in my family). So perhaps it was simply a way of attending to the needs of the child and getting him/her medical attention without other distractions.

Larry Kelley said...

Well yes, but MOST of the children probably were not in view of the incident.

And why not simply say that? It's not like they are releasing his/her name.

Anonymous said...

I see that is an abuse of what a Lockdown really is. Also not what a lockdown should be used for. What the heck is this school system coming too.
Even if it was a seizure, their is no reason to go into lockdown. More like the teachers and assistants bring children back to the class rooms.
Lockdowns are supposed to be use for a threat of some kind, such as an adult who does not belong on the school grounds. Or if their is a robbery near by.

Paula Barrows said...

It could very well been something serious. Something traumatic. Why not wait and see instead of being critical of Ms Dejarlais' decision. As a parent in Pelham, I have always found Lisa to make impeccable decisions.

Larry Kelley said...

Transparency is best medicine. Or sunlight.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, really. When they're offering "extra support" (counseling) to the students who witnessed the event, you know it was serious...

Nina Koch said...

Even without the school releasing the name of the child to the general public, many people will already know who it is. It's a very small school.

Clearly, that child's privacy needs protection. Not sure why that is so difficult to understand. Not sure why you feel you need to know the exact nature of the illness. It's simply not anybody's business.

Larry Kelley said...

But it's okay for the Gazette, in a front page story, to identify the two children who were bitten by a dog at Crocker Farm School?

Anonymous said...

There is a HUGH difference between IDing children bitten by a dog and naming a child and their illness. If you don't get that you have no business trying to pass yourself off as a journalist.

Anonymous said...

September 2, 2014 at 10:24 PM here....

"Yeah, really. When they're offering "extra support" (counseling) to the students who witnessed the event, you know it was serious..."

Just to be clear, I was supporting the idea that the response was appropriate, not Larry's comment about transparency.

Also, we all want our medical issues to be kept private, unless we choose to disclose them ourselves. It's literally illegal to release those medical details.

Just keep your curiosity under control.

keithw said...

Could be they used the medical issue to stage an exercise to test staff/student readiness for an actual event. There are lots of unusual drills that schools are implementing/conducting these days. Was there any police/fire presence during the lockdown, Larry?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

A medical emergency is definitely one of the appropriate uses of a lockdown, as described in trainings for lockdowns. For example, an adult staff member has a heart attack. The halls must be cleared for the emergency personnel to enter and attend to the patient. This is a practical reason, in addition to preserving the person's privacy and helping children avoid witnessing a scary event. It is not the same as a shelter in place action, when something threatening is happening in the school or nearby.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend whose child had a seizure at ARMS last year, in the hallway, and they did implement a short lockdown while they took care of the child. However, they did not mention it to the parents (in a letter or email) so there was never any concern on the part of the families.

Perhaps another term besides lockdown should be used for medical emergencies.

Larry Kelley said...

Keith: AFD confirms they dispatched an ambulance to the scene, and one patient was transported.

keithw said...

A seizure shouldn't trigger a lockdown. If that's school policy it should be changed if the idea is to protect the student's privacy. I can understand clearing out a hallway or classroom, but locking down the entire building? Doing it that way is making it everyone's business, because obviously, the students are going to want to know what triggered the lockdown. Also, it's not uncommon for students with seizure disorders to have in their med forms, a request to have a peer-friend or sibling to be present and/or involved if they do have a seizure in school. Sweeping all of the kids out would make that impossible

Anonymous said...

I think people don't understand what a lockdown is. I was at Fort River one time when they had a lockdown and I didn't even know it was in lockdown. It's not a big deal. Only in Amherst do we make a big deal out of it. People really need to get a life.

Larry Kelley said...

Then maybe the schools should succinctly explain that to the general community.

After all, they just hired a "Media & Climate Communications Specialist."

keithw said...

Anon 12:28 I guess that includes you if you were in one and didn't even realize it. Also, based on your apathy, I hope you were just visiting FR and that your not in the charge of any kids.

keithw said...


Anonymous said...

The reason I did not realize there was a lockdown was because it's not a big deal. That was the point of my post. Teachers went on teaching. Kids went on learning. The only difference was that kids had to stay in their classrooms.
How does my post show apathy?

Anonymous said...

How do the kids know it is a lock down? What is a lock down anyway?
What would they say in the good old days before the term "lock down" was invented?
My feeling is the term lock down makes everyone nervous with good reason. Maybe saying, "took measures to ensure child's privacy" would do.

Larry Kelley said...

I'm updating the article now with rules/procedures for emergency response taken from employee handbook.

keithw said...

I'm not sure how you can't find apathy in a statement like "The reason I did not realize there was a lockdown was because it's not a big deal" If you're a parent and you get a notification that your child's or children's school is in lockdown, are you going to say "it's not a big deal, oh and by the way, go get a life."

I can't agree with you more on the idea of sticking to routine and that the teachers keep teaching and kids keep learning whenever possible, but lack of knowledge of, or concern for an emergency situation within a school this day and age; I call apathy--either on your part, or on the part of an administration with poor communication skills and/or training.

If the shoe fits, wear it. If you're a staff member being kept out of the loop...be outraged and have a meeting. Now.

Anonymous said...

Other school systems have lockdowns - more than Amherst and there is not all the publicity and hand wringing about them like there is in Amherst. Things that are just acrid accepted with no fanfare in other towns have endless drama here.
And lockdowns don't necessarily mean there is an emergency of some kind.

Anonymous said...

Kelley a journalist? You're kidding right? Just curious Kelley, how many times do the schools need to tell you the laws regarding confidential information? You are incredibly transparent as you continue to try do draw attention to yourself. Most of the other stories you publish get very fee hits, like your ongoing whining about the flag. Must be nice to sit around all day playing mr mom, listening to the cops, thinking you bob Woodward.

Larry Kelley said...

Actually I also listen to the firefighters and the DPW. And just now I 'm covering a fascinating Planning Board meeting.

The lies they tell themselves said...

"Just curious Kelley, how many times do the schools need to tell you the laws regarding confidential information?"

Let me respond Larry, please.




-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. Any questions?

Nina Koch said...


To inform people in the building of a lockdown, the front office comes on the PA and says "We are now in lockdown." We are then given further instructions as needed. The main thing that it does is to keep people inside of classrooms and out of the hallways. We do in fact continue to run the class in normal fashion.

(The high school will have a drill for lockdown and shelter in place two weeks from today. We will also practice sheltering from a tornado.)

I agree with one of the posters that it would be possible to have people kept out of the hallways without going to an official lockdown. After all, there is no reason in the case of a medical emergency for classroom doors to be locked. We have had some instances at the high school where students in a given hallway were told to stay inside the classroom while an emergency was attended to.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nina and Larry for the clarification. While I agree that keeping kids and staff away from a medical emergency is important, "lock down" is a loaded term, no pun intended, that creates a lot of distress. Maybe they could have announced "there has been a medical emergency in the building, please remain in classrooms."
As soon as you say "lock down" it scares people.

Anonymous said...

Aw squeaky did your little mousiest get its mousy panties all in a tither? Why don't you just scurry back into your little mousy hole and let the grown ups talk. That's a good little mousy.

The whole world knows what you're about said...

"Aw squeaky did your little mousiest get its mousy panties all in a tither? Why don't you just scurry back into your little mousy hole and let the grown ups talk. That's a good little mousy."

I know I know, I'm such a drag.

And I'm ~so~ deeply sorry I can't

be wrapped

in those swirling colors,

the "ooos"

the "ahhhhhhs"

the ~incredible~ things

a 2000 dollar a week

taxpayer funded

paycheck brings.


when the bowl overfloweth

with organic mangoes!

-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. Better a plate of boiled vegetables in an environment of peace, than a banquet of meat in a place of cruelty.

Anonymous said...

Squeaky is a sewer rat not a mouse.

Anonymous said...

People are simply out of control. A lock down is a very serious matter-one that does instill fright in every single person involved and not to be taken lightly. This was a misjudgment of authority -- and unless the principal can see this this nonsense will only continue and when the real thing happens--god forbid--no one will know to take it seriously--like crying wolf once too often. Why can't children see their peers in a medical situation--they are the ones to offer the greatest help. They act instinctively and with great unadulterated compassion. I've been in lock downs~they're very scary to say the least--All I could imagine the whole while--15, 30 minutes-- is throwing myself across the bodies of as many students as my 5 foot self can cover and how to keep them lined up, and quiet so that this can
happen. It's awful!

Anonymous said...

Anon 1140 you are very wrong. Lockdowns happen frequently and even more in schools in localities nearby. It's just that in those localities people don't freak out like they do here. Amherst is an outlier in more ways than one.

keithw said...

Anon 11:40

Judging by your post, it sounds as though you're a school staff member and therefor, would have the most immediate perspective on school lockdowns and would have the most reliable sense of what it's like to undergo one. I certainly hope that you and your fellow staff members have some type of influence on the administration, or at least that they take you serious enough to listen to your opinion on changing policy.

God speed

Anonymous said...

On the contrary Anon 1140 sounds like they don't know what they are talking about. They sound like a hysterical parent.

keithw said...


Not sure how you come to that conclusion based on what's written in 11:40's post. Seems like it's more your issue than hers.

Anonymous said...

Not my issue at all keith. You sure have trouble with perception a lot here.

keithw said...

Hmmm...disagree again.

Hope you don't mind me copying you by being vague and not contributing anything useful.

Anonymous said...

Just following your lead keith.

keithw said...

You anons ARE great followers. Enjoy the view.

Anonymous said...

Troubling to me is that we seem more concerned with sheltering our kids from the world than we are with the child who "fell ill." Hope that kid's okay.

Anonymous said...

lived here most of my life, still don't know who kiethw is. if you don't want to be an anon, sign your whole name, keithw.

keithw, if the kid barfed all over the hallway, do you think it was a good idea to not let kids into the hallways until the matter was taken are of? if the kid had a seizure do you think it was a good idea to not let kids into the hallways to gawk or to scare the hell out of the 5 year old's or embarrass forever the kid who had the seizure?

a lot of people will say "kid has a seizure, real world, use it as a teaching moment. dog bites two kids, use it as a teaching moment." but the teachers don't have time to teach the kids things about the world that are parents' responsibilities to teach them about. overcoming fear of dogs, rationalizing seeing a kid have a seizure, are not part of any local or state curriculum. some people seem to think that kids and teachers are just lollygagging around until a teaching moment happens.

keithw said...

Anon 2:47

You don't need to know my last name to know who I am, just the same as I don't need to know your full name to know you're an idiot.

If the issue was that a student vomited, would they have locked down the school and sent him to the hospital?

You're right about one thing: Teachable Moments are not a part of local or state curriculum--they're a part of common sense and are an invaluable tool for teachers who take their job seriously and want to have a meaningful connection with their students. Instead of people like you that say "I don't know, I don't have time for you...go ask your mom or something."

You've got a lot to learn...good idea being an anon.

Anonymous said...

8:30 am anon~I know exactly, all too well, what I am talking about. I am giving first hand knowledge on lock-downs in public schools. They are very scary-in light of what happened in CT. and the many other school shootings. Most children though--feel comforted enough, and trusting enough to follow the adults lead and stay silent the whole while the lock-down is going on. Why on earth would you use the phrase hysterical parent? smh And unfortunately kethw. ~ staff here have little, almost no say or influence in the ways administration runs things. Sad reality--but it's truth. Common sense would tell you that unless every one's lives in the building were at risk--this lock down simply never should have happened. And is it known~were everyone's lives at risk?

keithw said...

Anon 1:14

Thanks for confirming what I had believed to be the case based off of your last post.

Does the school you're employed at offer professional development incentives or tuition reimbursement?

While employed at a program that had certain practices I had no confidence in, I researched and was able to find better methods, signed up for and attended trainings & workshops during work days, became certified and was reimbursed for the cost. I was then able to come back to the admin team with considerable leverage to influence change in the existing practice.

It took a while, but if it means enough to you and your team, consider researching lockdown/SIP trainings (there's bound to be millions) and see what's out there. After all, it's all about the kids in the end.

Good Luck & Stay Safe

Oh, and as far as that anon's comments go...I think they have a lot of trouble with perception here and common sense doesn't really occur to them either.


keithx said...

I would find out what the practices are in other local schools. I know Belchertown has just as many of not more lockdowns without all the hysteria Amherst seems to have around them by folks on this blog. Is it because they are called something different?

keithw said...


When you're finished down there, please make sure you've left no shoe prints on my coattails.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how the child is who took ill? Does anyone know what exactly occurred to drive the principal to lock down her school? Larry-how can the average citizen get these facts--how did you find out about this lock down and is there a place where parents/community members, etc. can go to find out the history of lock downs in our schools? Thanks for keeping us informed.

Larry Kelley said...

Sorry no updates. School stuff is pretty hard to get, even harder if it's remotely related to medical.

To be honest I can't even remember who tipped me to this incident. I have a lot of trusted sources.

I don't think any one agency (the schools, or police) keeps a record of lockdowns so that too would be hard to get.