LPS evaluates response to threat

Lawton_In the wake of Thursday's violent threat that forced a lockdown of all Lawton Public Schools, school officials say the process worked well; but the communication and interpretation need some improvement.  School leaders are evaluating how they handled the first ever simultaneous lockdown of all of Lawton's schools.

They say a lot of their pre-planning produced positive results, but it also shed light on some areas of weakness.  The school district is speaking very openly about its actions taken on Thursday, and they say they've had a good response from the public.  However, there's always room for improvement, and that was their focus on Friday.

Superintendent Barry Beauchamp says the decision to go into a lockdown is not in question.  But, the definition of what lockdown means definitely needs clarification.  Some administrators were under the impression it meant high-security mode - where students are locked in classrooms.  Beauchamp says it's like the difference between a tornado watch, and a tornado warning.  "The problem is some of our schools reacted that way," he says.  "Some reacted in a way that they thought there was a potential intruder that was imminent, and that gave parents a mixed message to parents who could not get in."

Beauchamp admits it may have caused more panic, not only among parents, but in the students who were not told the reason they were being locked down.  "The human nature side of people is if they don't have total information, they make it up or embellish it, sometimes based on a comment or what they believe they heard," he says.  Cell phone calls and text messages-reporting shootings, bombs, and other injuries-are a perfect example.

Some parents say they tried to get information from schools, but were told nothing was going on.  Beauchamp says every school received a statement to read to parents.  "Even with email, cell service, and all the things that happen, there are still pieces of information that gets twisted or don't get out the way you intend."

Those who received the information say it wasn't enough to reassure them their kids were safe.  But, in many ways, Beauchamp says the school's hands were tied.  "We did know there were actions taking place that were probably going to prevent anything from happening," he says.  "But, we can't go on and say everything we know in every situation.  While it may aid in people understanding better, it also aids people trying to perpetrate anything."

Adding to the equation, before the threat, 26 elementary school principals were on their way to the Shoemaker Center for a meeting.  Beuchamp says it may have led to some confusion about who was supposed to implement the lockdown procedures in their absence.