Freedom Area School District performs first active intruder drill with students

Joanna Odebode, Writer

On Nov. 28, Freedom Area Elementary, Middle, and High Schools had their first active intruder drill with their students. The intruder in the building was from the Homeland Security Beaver County Emergency Response Team.

According to Pennsylvania General Assembly, Section 1517 of the Pennsylvania school code, Fire and Emergency Evacuation Drills, “In all school buildings of school entities where fire-escapes, appliances for the extinguishment of fires, or proper and sufficient exits in case of fire or panic, either or all, are required by law to be maintained, fire drills shall be periodically conducted, not less than one a month, by the teacher or teachers in charge, under rules and regulations to be promulgated by the chief school administrator under whose supervision such school entities are.”

Laws saying that school districts have to do fire drills are in place and enforced, but the laws mandating intruder drills are not so black and white.  This was the first active intruder drill that there has ever been at our school with the students, although the teachers and staff have had two trainings and drills. One training was in 2014 and one in Nov. 2017.

An amendment requiring schools to conduct a drill with students within 90 days of school starting was added to the law in 2017, according to a memorandum for PA House Bill 178 written by PA Representative Gary Day. A bill that would amend the school code to mandate trainings specifically for active shooter situations is currently in committee, meaning that in the future, there may be more specific requirements on how and when schools have drills for active intruders.

“[The drill] was nerve racking and scary, but it was a learning experience. It was upsetting when some of my peers did not take it seriously. Screaming and laughing, but other than that the drill went well.” said one sixth grader, who was in Mr. Gregg’s art class at the time of the drill.

Mr. Ryan Smith, middle school principal and school safety coordinator, said he thinks the drill went well and had a positive effect on students and staff. When asked if this will be a monthly thing he said that at this time no, but it’s expected that we will have another drill before the end of the school year.

The high school did their drill first while the middle school was on lock and teach and the elementary students were arriving to school. While we had our drill at the middle school, the high school was on lock and teach. During this time the kindergarten, first and second grade went into the elementary gym and Mrs. Davids, kindergarten teacher, read the book “We are Not Scared, We are Prepared”, by Amy Buss to them. The Freedom Area School District uses the Run, Fight, Hide method during active intruder situations. In the best case scenario we would want to run. If that’s not possible you would want to hide by barricading inside of a classroom. Last case, you fight. One class in the high school and one in the elementary left the building during the drill, but none in the middle school.

Although the drill was terrifying, we are not scared, we are prepared.