Letter: More information needed on school lockdown

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:12 PM


I am the parent of two children at Pigeon Forge Primary School.

As a teenager following coverage of the Columbine shooting, I imagined what it would be like for a fellow classmate to come into my school with explosives and guns. Watching funerals of kids my own age, I imagined what it would be like to lose friends in that horrific manner. I asked myself: Would I be willing to sacrifice myself for someone else?  Would I be able to voice my faith with a gun to my head? And what would I do if someone came into my school with a gun? Years later I read the book “Columbine” by Dave Cullen, from a parent’s perspective. As I read the book, I related to the  anguish of the victims’ parents.

Eight months ago, we watched as another school experienced what used to be unimaginable. As the pictures of 6- and 7-year-old victims with toothless grins made their way around the world, parents across the nation experienced heartache and fear for their own children’s safety. Returning my children to school the following Monday took every ounce of faith that I had in God, the school, and law enforcement. 

(Monday) our community experienced a county-wide lockdown of schools. As much as I like to believe that I have some super powers that would protect my children, I logically know that if the school system had sent out a notification of lockdown it could’ve created mass hysteria.

I commend the Pigeon Forge Primary staff’s handling of the lockdown.  Unfortunately my daughter’s classmate told her about the school shooting in Canada (she meant Connecticut). We had chosen not to tell our children anything about the shooting. The misinformation escalated her anxiety. Our 6-year old was unaware of the seriousness of the situation; but our daughter cried retelling us about her fears. She was locked in a room and she could not get to her brother.

After discussing the facts about Newtown and answering her questions, I realized we had done her an injustice by shielding her. And, on hearing more details involving yesterday’s lockdown, I realized that — just like my daughter needed factual details —I needed factual details about (Monday’s) occurrence. 

Hearing that the threat was unfounded was not reassuring enough for me to return my children to school (Tuesday). I talked with the Sheriff’s Department. They answered most of my questions.

I respect our local law enforcement, and I believe that they are good at their jobs. But I also know that the law sometimes limit them in doing their jobs. Unfortunately due process sometimes serves the suspects’ interest, and not those of the victims. 

If we ever experience another school lockdown, we as parents and a community need more information regarding the cause of and solution to it. Keeping details private from the general public can lead to unnecessary fear and hysteria. Ignorance is not bliss.

Serenity Kelly