After the unspeakable tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it seemed everyone learned about Code Red drills.
These are the drills done in schools all over South Florida and the nation, sometimes called active shooter drills, in which students and teachers practice what to do in case someone with a gun starts shooting people on campus. However, hearing about these training exercises from our kids is one thing, seeing them is another.
“I think the kids have to know the reality of what’s going on, and I don’t think the parents or the community in general really knows what we’re asking the kids to practice doing,” said Patrick Manley, a teacher at Avant Garde Academy, a public charter school in Hollywood.
Manley videotaped a Code Red drill in his classroom, to show the community the stark reality of seventh graders barricading the doors with desks and file cabinets, turning tables over to act as bullet shields, and lying face-down on the floor behind the obstacles.
Practicing survival in the worst case scenario, a nightmare that just occurred a few miles away at Stoneman Douglas.
"To practice barricading their classroom, a place where they’re supposed to be safe, and we are teaching them how to best barricade themselves against bullets, and it’s kind of disgusting,” Manley said.
Disgusting, Manley says, that Code Red drills have become a necessity.
Hollywood Police officer Chris Christianson helped develop the Code Red drill protocol used all over Broward County. He says it empowers kids with an action plan.
“Of course, and they’re ready and they’re not scared of it anymore,” Christianson said.
The goal of the Code Red drill is to put obstacles in the path of the shooter, to force him or her to take more time to find targets, to delay long enough for police officers to get there.
“It’s not designed to stop anybody from actually doing the act of shooting and killing, it’s designed to protect them for the two minute magic window before we can get there and end it,” Christianson said, explaining that it usually takes about two minutes for police to arrive at a scene, excluding a School Resource Officer who might already be there.
Lisa Levin has a daughter at the school and says Code Red drills should be done as often as fire drills are done.
“It’s scary, but unfortunately it’s a way of life now,” Levin said. “It’s absolutely reassuring so that they know what to do in case of an active shooter at the school.”
Manley points out that fire drills are done multiple times per year at just about every school, whereas Code Red drills are usually done only once.
“How many teachers or students have died from school fires in the last 60 years? The answer is zero. How many have died in school shootings?” Manley said, his voice trailing off.
Manley teaches robotics. He’d rather concentrate on showing his students how to program computers, but he knows spending a few minutes on Code Red drills could save lives.
That, he says, is indicative of the state of society today, and to ignore the threat is not an option.