We’re offering a forum for our Student Advisory Board members to share their voice through guest blog posts. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Impact on Education.
Reflecting on the Centaurus High School Lockdown
By James Clemson
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, just before 10 a.m, Centaurus High School went into lockdown after a teacher thought they heard gunshots fired within the school. The school was in lockdown for roughly 3 hours while police searched the building before, thankfully, it was declared a false alarm. Afterward, Centaurus returned to normal operations.
The swift response of multiple police departments demonstrated BVSD’s good planning and the dedication of our local law enforcement to keeping kids safe. However, the emotional aftermath of such an event highlights some areas for improvement.
One student perspective
As a Centaurus student myself, I have friends and family who were in the building at the time of the lockdown, although I was fortunately learning remotely at the time.
One 9th grade student I know was outside the building, studying with friends, when the report came in. Her first impression that something was very wrong came when a police woman pulled up with a large gun and talked to a staff member outside. The staff member then yelled at the students to “RUN!” She and her friends ran to a nearby gas station, unsure where to go or what was happening. She admitted that it was mostly adrenaline that kept her moving and a sense that the decisions she made could very much be life or death. Arriving at a friend’s house, they reached out to family and peers in the building and over the course of an hour and a half, started to learn what had been going on at the school.
After Centaurus announced that they would be returning to normal activities, this student and her friends returned, still understandably distraught. Classes were half empty, and in those that remained, teachers and students didn’t talk about the events of the morning. She said it felt like a sort of group denial. Personally shaken, she felt the need to work through her feelings before she could return to her classes. Although trauma counselors had been made available, information on when and where to seek these resources was scarce, and announcements that it was ok to leave school if that was needed were late in coming. All in all, this student felt that Centaurus’s emotional and trauma support was “too little too late”.
In an age where school shootings are an all too common possibility, and especially in light of the recent mass shooting at the King Soopers in Boulder, it is important to have a plan. The events on March 3rd demonstrated the strength of BVSD’s lockdown procedure but also made clear some weaknesses, and it is important to learn from this experience to make students feel as safe as possible in their schools.
As this 9th grader pointed out, she would have known what to do, were she in the classroom, thanks to numerous drills. But outside, with her only direction being “RUN,” she was left largely on her own to make decisions that could have meant life or death. Better guidance on safe spaces near a school, and how to get to them, would have been very helpful, according to this student. Furthermore, the actual event is not the whole issue.
The emotional fallout requires better guidance and communication from the school. BVSD has many exceptional mental health resources, as a district and through partnerships with the community. Beyond school counselors, which form the backbone of BVSD’s student support systems, community partnerships with Mental Health Walk in Crisis Clinc, Colorado Crisis Services, Community Reach Center, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Mental Health Partners are all intended to provide needed mental health services.
While these are important and impactful, it is also vital that information about how to access them, as well as more traditional school counselors, is made readily available, so that students can easily find the support they need. This should be done in a clear, direct manner, be it through the PA system, teachers, or whatever other method is deemed most effective at reaching students.
Events like these can not be ignored; they must be acknowledged. Even if it was a false alarm, the experiences and emotions of those involved are very, very real, and should be addressed as such. I hope BVSD takes the events of March 3 as a chance to reflect and improve and make school safer and more supportive for everyone.