Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mr. Yellow is in the Building

Note to regular readers: I apologize for staying off the subject yet again today. I do have a post in the works about the FOC for Sunday.

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It was April 1st, and I was walking my seventh grade class out to the bus, when we were met by a large and frantic woman insisting we go back to our classroom, the school was on lockdown. The long corridor leading out to the waiting busses was full of confused kids and teachers and a few very insistent parents trying to convince us all that it wasn’t a prank. It was real. There was a gunman outside and the police had ordered the school on lockdown.

My first thought was my son, a kindergartener at the same school. He attended morning Kindergarten and then went to an afternoon enrichment class while I finished the day with my middle school students. Four days a week, he played with the other teachers’ children after school while I finished my grading and prep work. But one day a week, the teachers had a mandatory meeting and our kids could not be around, so on that day he rode the school bus to a daycare center at the mall in town. Just one day a week for two hours. The rest of the time, he was with me. This April Fool’s Day was the day he was to go to daycare.

But where was he? I walked past the deserted Kindergarten room with my group of twelve- and thirteen-year-old students. I grabbed a parent from the hallway and begged her to stay in my class with my students while I went to find my son. The kids knew the “Mr. Yellow” drill and had to sit silently in the back corner away from the door and windows (if the school needed to go on lockdown, the office was supposed to announce “Mr. Yellow is in the building” over the PA system). The door was locked and the privacy pane in place. I ran down the now-empty hallway and out the front door of the school. There stood three school busses with a few students sitting on each one and the bus drivers with their doors open waiting and wondering where all the other students were.

I didn’t see a gunman, and it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. Nothing was going to keep me from finding my child. I jumped onto his bus and informed the driver what was going on. Nobody had told the drivers and nobody had tried to remove the Kindergartners from the busses. I told all the little ones to sit on the floor in front of their seats, then ran to the next two busses to relay similar messages, including telling the bus drivers to keep their doors closed. I ran back to my son’s bus, removed him, and returned to my classroom to find chaos.

One of my tough guy students had decided he was going to go after the gunman and was threatening the poor lady I’d drafted into watching them. I appreciated the sentiments of this boy – the middle schoolers were the older kids and this one wanted to protect little kids. What a guy.

It turned out to be a false alarm. Not an April Fool’s prank exactly – the “gunman” was a sixteen-year-old carrying an airsoft rifle in the vicinity of the school and some concerned citizen had called 9-1-1. That is exactly what people should do if they suspect a gunman on the loose.

The way the littlest students and bus drivers were handled (or not) was never addressed (to my knowledge). This wasn’t my first experience with threats and violence in and near a school and it wouldn’t be my last. 


  1. Judging only by the headline, I thought you were going to be telling about a potty training drill. It turned out it was slightly more serious than that. It must have been pretty scary.

    1. It was my worst nightmare. I will not be posting any potty training stories on this blog, but I can see why you'd think that :)


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