Code Red Drills



Code Red Drills

Tonight I read my second grade son his bedtime story. He’s really into “choose your own story” books and the one he likes the most is about the golden age of piracy. He gets to choose whether he joins the navy, a pirate ship or becomes a privateer. The adventures are fun and daring and the dangers are well-described but completely fictional.

After tonight’s story came to an end he told me about the “code red drill” they had at school today. He described it like this: “We all hid in the bathroom and had to be as still and quiet as we could. We pretended there was a robber outside. If we were all hiding in the bathroom really quietly he’d think he came to school on the wrong day and go away because there’s nobody to rob.”

Wow. What a drill… for a second grader.

He didn’t quite understand what the drill was really about, but I did. It was about Columbine. It was about Sandy Hook. It was about so many scenarios that have played out on the news over the past few years. It was about every parent’s worst nightmare.

I asked him if they practiced “code red drills” before. He said no. I asked him if they would practice them again. He said he wasn’t sure. I asked him how long he was in the bathroom hiding. He said maybe five minutes. He assured me the teacher was in there with them. He said they did a great job so they got to pick a candy from a jar after the drill was done.

Phew. I’m glad he got a candy reward.

I tucked my rough and tumble seven-year-old in and went downstairs to ask my husband if he knew about any of this. He did not. He sat there a little stunned. It’s hard to know what to think about this sort of thing.

I emailed the school principal to ask her about code red drills. Her first response was that code red drills are just fire drills. They teach the kids to leave the building in the event of a fire.

Obviously she misunderstood me.. so I explained that my son did not describe a fire evacuation drill. A bit later she replied to say that today they practiced an “active assailant drill.” She continued: “We have these drills twice a year to practice in order to prepare students where to go if ever there was a danger on campus. My staff practices all lock down procedures. This is how it is explained to students. This is required also by OCPS. ”

Is it a good idea to practice and prepare the students for something like this? Yes, I guess it is. Does it suck that we live in a world that makes it necessary for elementary school students to practice hiding in bathrooms and closets from the most serious of bad guys? Yes, it really, really, really does.

Apparently the “code red drill” is for the most serious threat at a school.

It’s described in an 2013 article I found like this:

Teachers and students stop what they’re doing and move into action as well. The goal is to keep everyone safe.

…Rooms look empty to someone who might make it through the locked door.

Every student, staff and teacher knows where to go. Each room is checked and cleared individually – that way an assailant can’t lure the students out of the rooms.

Tonight I’m a bit shaken. I’m having a hard time calming down and going to bed. I’m trying to understand how we live in a world where elementary school kids have to learn to cower and hide in school. It reminds me of the a-bomb drills that my parents lived through. They were taught to duck and cover under their desks. As if that would have saved them from an atomic bomb…

As if cowering a locked bathroom or closet will save our children from what comes next for them  too…

It’s a scary world we live in. How do I talk to my children about this? How do we explain the code red drill?




  1. My children have had this drill for at least the past two years at their school. My 2nd grader calls it the “bad guy drill.” Back in 1st grade, someone (another student) was a little too open and descriptive with him and he now thinks that the bad guy is coming to shoot them all in the stomach. There were many talks about this and reassuring that the teachers and staff are doing the best they can for the students. I hate that our kids are subjected to this, but on the flip side am thankful everyone knows what to do if the unthinkable happens. We live in an evil world. I’m thankful for the hope and peace we find in Christ.

  2. So these code red drills are still going on. Thus week, January 2017, my children participated in a code red drill at their schools, middle school and high school. I guess they’re a necessary evil. I guess they’ve all grown up with them. But it doesn’t make it any less terrifying. Both of my children told me today but there was a period of time when they did not know it was a drill. What are we doing to these kids when they think for some number of minutes but they’re actually could be a shooter on their campus? That doesn’t seem right. Like we practice a fire drill and the students are told immediately by their teachers “this is a drill”. They should get the same information about the code red drill being “just a drill” so they can calmly practice the procedure and not be terrified and in fear of their lives.


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