In the Shadow of Tragedy: Administration changes safety procedures


Bryan Doherty and Martha Schick

Emily Clarke, Print Chief

As Principal Madelyn Ball walked down the halls during the lockdown drill on Jan. 10, she felt the eerie silence all around her. The lockdown drill was one of the drills JC instituted this year as a result of multiple school shootings around the country.

According to Ball, “the drill went really well. It was very eerie walking down these halls during the lockdown. It’s like I didn’t know where everybody went. It was just silent. It was terrific.”

Despite Ball’s optimism about the drill, not all students are confident in the procedure.

“I don’t really think it will be that effective, because in that kind of situation, I don’t think it would go the way it was planned,” senior Ryan Decker said.

After the Newtown shooting, Ball and other administrators worked in accordance with local law enforcement to update the school’s lockdown procedure.

“You realize now that these are no longer just drills to have drills. You never know. These incidents have proven it can happen anytime, anywhere. The key to safety is to have immediate responses we can rely on,” Ball said.

According to Ball, the next steps for complete school safety are to practice a lockdown drill where a shooter is in the vicinity but not inside of the school, an evacuation drill where part of the school is closed off, and combination drills where the drill starts as one type of emergency and then switches into another.

“That’s what seems to happen when there is a true emergency. We might go into lockdown and then it becomes an evacuation,” Ball said.

The idea to change procedures for school safety drills came after the Perry Hall shooting during the first week of school.

“We knew we had to completely revamp how we did things. We had to call people in to come and help us take a look at the building. It’s a huge job,” Ball said.

In October, school safety was put to the test again when JC, along with three other Harford County schools, received a bomb threat.

JC evacuated its students, according to Ball, because “we wanted to make sure nothing had been brought in. We felt good. And when we did the drill, it truly was a drill, because I felt confident that there was nothing here.”

Ball is confident in the ability of the guidance program to preemptively stop school violence.

“I think what we do best is that our counselors have a really good relationship with the kids, and we do have a program where we refer kids we are worried about,” Ball said.

Director of Guidance Carol Heflin Shupe agrees that the guidance department is preventive in how they watch out for students who seem to become withdrawn.

“I think it’s not a bad idea to get JCAC [John Carroll Assistance Committee] to make that something we focus on,” Heflin said.

Junior Casey Reil agrees with Heflin and Ball about the significance of the guidance department. “I’m still skeptical that something like [Newtown] would happen at JC. I think we’re a different community, and if someone had a problem like that, they’d go to a counselor or someone because we’re a close knit community.”

Emily Clarke is Print Chief for the Patriot and