Guest post: Reflections on Security in our International School

And now, for my first ever guest post, submitted by an expat mom who wishes to remain anonymous (for the purposes of not identifying her children or their school, and thus not compromising any of the security measures mentioned here).

Today our international school experienced a scheduled security lockdown drill.  Nothing unheard of in any school… fire drills, tornado drills, security drills.  We’ve all experienced them throughout our school and work careers.

What struck me today as noteworthy, though, was the utter seriousness with which everyone took this drill… most notably, the students.  In my experience in the US, I’ve found students and even adults laughing and acting as though these drills had no meaning.  And perhaps, until one experiences a situation in which what was drilled actually comes in handy, the meaning truly can’t sink in.

When we first visited this school, we noted the campus was fenced and had discretely mounted security cameras.  Not particularly noteworthy, as many schools are fenced and monitored, until closer observation reveals the barbed-wired top on the fence.  Okay… this makes sense considering the student population who attends such schools.  And while many students arrive at school via school bus and public transportation, it is also very common to see students arriving in a private car, with darkened windows and a ‘driver.’  It is yet another subtle reminder of the community which we have become a part of here.

Unlike drills in the US, when the lockdown alert went out this morning, it was not a ‘this is a drill’ announcement.  It was a school-wide announcement of a somewhat innocuous nature.  It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear at all.  But all of the students and teachers who were in the library where I was immediately got up, left everything in place, including personal and school laptops, and quietly filed through a previously unnoticed and unremarkable door.

We found ourselves in a secure room, normally used for storage, but with a low sitting bench built into the storage areas.  I had to reflect on how long we might be in here in other circumstances.  As the students entered, they filed to the far ends of the benches without direction, with no pushing, shoving or joking which might require adult correction.  They were reminded to silence their cell phones.  And then we sat… silently.  There was the occasional very low whisper, but it never lasted for more than a sentence or two and was quickly ended, again without adult intervention.   And not once did the whispers escalate into the dull murmured roar, which seems typical of a group, which is waiting in ‘silence’.

We waited quietly for about ten minutes.  It seemed longer.  You could hear occasional footsteps in the hallways through the walls.  And then the ‘all clear’ announcement came.  The students got up and filed right back out again in an orderly way… and went back about their business as if this was just another day in the life of an international student….

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