School Security Expert Tip – Attacking the Active Shooter – Has School Lockdown Really Failed?

There are people saying that the school lockdown is a failed concept that is outdated and in dire need of replacement.  This argument has not been established as a fact.  This assertion is hotly contested by most leading experts in the field of school safety.  When pressed for examples of where lockdown has failed in schools, proponents of abandoning school lockdown usually cite four instances:

  • The library at Columbine High School which was actually never locked during the attack.
  • The Virginia Tech shooting where lockdown was not in place as a protocol, practiced by the faculty and most rooms did not even have locks.
  • The Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting where we do not even know the key facts of the case at this point and will not know them until the official report is released this summer.
  • The Red Lake Reservation School Shooting which I worked as an expert witness finding no evidence of concept failure.

When evaluating school lockdown, we should be especially careful not to confuse application failure with concept failure.  For example, if an aggressor is able to attack victims in a room because there is no viable lockdown protocol, staff do not have a key to the room they are teaching in, lockdown drills have not been conducted, etc.  The cause can be and usually is from a failure to be able to apply the concept of school lockdown rather than a failure of the concept itself. 

We respectfully submit that most of the problems we have seen with school lockdown do not indicate that this is a faulty concept, but instead that there is much evidence that many school staff are not properly prepared to apply the concepts under the stress of actual incidents.

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.