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One school’s handling of the one month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting

On Wednesday, March 14, Cary Academy will conduct several activities on the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.

At 8:20 a.m. we will conduct an emergency lockdown drill. Normally, these drills are not announced in advance, but considering the circumstances we have decided to inform the full community of our plans. We will hold an assembly on Tuesday, March 13 to talk with students about lockdown procedures.

At the assembly, we plan to share an overview of the three major emergency plans we have in place: weather, fire, and lockdown. We will discuss the importance of following adult instructions and staying out of sight and quiet during drills. Our school resource officer, Kenric Alexander, will be on hand for the drill. Officer Alexander is our primary liaison with Cary PD. We will also discuss the use of social media during an emergency, including its likelihood to incite panic and the disruption it could have on network bandwidth.

After a recent review of our protocols for lockdown communication, we have decided to use our emergency phone and text system during our lockdown drills. This system will inform parents and employees that a drill is taking place. This system is usually tested once a year in the fall. The phone numbers in the system are updated nightly from the family contact information. We will also be adding Upper School student cell phone numbers into the system so that they can be informed should they be in a non-class setting, such as off campus for lunch or in outside area on campus.

After the lockdown drill, students will participate in a short activity related to what happened at Stoneman Douglas and the student-led activism that has followed. We will be using the protocols on healthy dialogue from Essential Partners. These protocols are designed to facilitate empathic conversations on highly charged topics. So now is the time. We ask that families give us the space to learn together. 

At 10:00 a.m., we will recognize those who lost their lives at Stoneman Douglas. With a moment of silence, there is a national school walkout planned to last 17 minutes, one minute for each victim. Students who wish to walkout at this time will be allowed. Students who do not will be able to do any number of other activities, including quiet study time.  

The morning is full. We expect to be back in classrooms by 10:30 a.m. We hope that by coordinating a number of different activities in the same morning we will be able to alleviate student concerns about safety and also provide some appropriate context to larger conversations happening at the moment.

Mike Ehrhardt

Michael Erhhardt, EdD, is the head of school at Cary Academy. He worked as a journalist in New Jersey before beginning his education career. He currently serves on the board of directors at the not-for-profit Virtual High School Collaborative in Maynard, Mass. He is married with two teenage children.