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Live 5 News Investigates: Inside a School Lockdown - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Live 5 News Investigates: Inside a School Lockdown

Oakbrook Middle School Principal Brion Rutherford and School Resource Officer James Barr watch surveillance monitors during the lockdown drill. Oakbrook Middle School Principal Brion Rutherford and School Resource Officer James Barr watch surveillance monitors during the lockdown drill.
DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - New documents show a Maryland teen planned to shoot his school's resource officer, take his gun and then "kill as many teachers and students as he could." Just two weeks ago - a student opened fire at a high school in Washington State. And we'll never forget what happened two years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

Local schools are learning how to keep your children safe if a shooting were to happen. Recently, Oakbrook Middle School conducted a lockdown drill to make sure students and teachers know what to do.

It began with a message from Principal Brion Rutherford: "Teachers at this time we are going into a hard lockdown, Please secure your students and your classrooms as quickly as possible. Make sure everything's locked up tight, move to a safe wall."

It's what teachers might hear if there were an intruder on campus.

Oakbrook Middle goes on lockdown. But it's only a drill. Principal Brion Rutherford and Summerville Police and School Resource Officer James Barr check out the monitors. Administrators in other parts of campus wait for the signal.

"Guys, hallways are clear, looks like we got it right at a minute," Rutherford says.

And it's time to head out. They check every classroom, lab and office. 

"Just like a fire drill or tornado, or any drill that we do, the element that's going to pose the most danger in those situations is folks panicking and not following the plan," Rutherford says.

Cameras posted outside of the learning cottages or mobile classrooms can help spot trouble during a real emergency.

It's 9:47. The mobile classrooms are all cleared, and they head back inside, moving quickly from room to room, watching how teachers and students follow instructions.

It's a lesson that could save their lives.

"The more times we practice the plan, the more we're relaxed and confident all of our adults can be in navigating, and moving kids to where they need to be to be safe no matter what the exercise is," Rutherford says. "And so it then almost becomes second nature."
Principal Rutherford is impressed with some of the hiding places.

"You want to see this," Rutherford said.

In one classroom, students huddled behind a bookshelf.

The goal is out of sight, out of mind - - in case a shooter comes looking for targets.

"Mr. Joy, everything is free and clear, y'all can resume y'all normal day," Rutherford says.

It's 10 a.m., and they're halfway through.

"Alright guys, I'm going to dismiss you by row, you go back quietly to your desk and sit quietly," a teacher says to students.

In the gymnasium instructions have been followed as well, which means it is hard to tell where the teacher and students are hiding, but they're in there.

The process goes smoothly until they get to the 7th grade School Counselor's room. Counselor Lowanda Jamison won't answer the door or open it.

"Well I was afraid cause I was thinking to myself that what if this was a true robbery and what if the person had a gun on him," Jamison said.

The school was placed on lockdown a few years ago when a bank robber was on the run, so Counselor Jamison has been extra careful ever since.

The drill is wrapping up. They make their way back toward the front of school. Parents are stuck outside. It's a lockdown, so no one gets in, no one gets out.

"Hopefully it's something that we're preparing for that never actually happens, but at the same time, we have to be conscious that it is a danger that could happen and we have to make sure we keep our kids safe," Rutherford says.

In just 31 minutes, it's over. It's 10:15 a.m.

School administrators do not reveal the entire plan to protect students' safety in the event of a real emergency.

But important lessons were learned in that half-hour. Among them, teachers have to turn off smartboards that partially illuminate classrooms. Students have to treat a lockdown as though it's the real deal, which means no talking. And the school must find a way to make sure substitute teachers know where to find the tools they need, to properly secure their rooms.   
Many school districts around the Lowcountry make lockdown drills a part of safety practices just like fire and tornado drills.


Dorchester District Two requires schools to perform lockdown drills once a semester. Berkeley County conducts lockdown drills quarterly, and then once a year there is a full scale active shooter exercise. Dorchester District 4 holds lockdown drills twice a semester, with one drill each year district-wide. And Charleston County schools have to do a lockdown drill within the first 30 days of school starting.

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