Around Pleasanton: Lockdown at Las Positas; it's not always possible

Student survey analyzes aftermath of October gun scare at Livermore campus

My 19-year-old granddaughter Bailey Little was one of hundreds of students on campus Oct. 4 at Las Positas College when an emergency alert sounded out of fear that a gunman was at the school.

That turned out to be a student carrying only a Nerf gun intended to be used as a prop for an off-campus activity. But it prompted a call to campus security, nevertheless, and a campus-wide lockdown.

The lockdown was broadcast on the school's loudspeaker system and followed up by text alerts to registered cellphone numbers and emails. Teachers were told to lock their classroom doors and keep students inside.

While that worked for much of the college campus, some were left out. In Bailey's classroom, students and the teacher couldn't hear the loudspeaker alert. That building lacked cellphone reception. They didn't know about the lockdown until someone from an adjoining lab told them, long after the alert was first sounded.

When it was over about an hour later, Bailey heard from others that many faced similar troubling situations. She conducted a survey of the school's faculty and received 52 responses. This is her report.

Although teachers and students were told to lock classroom doors, the survey indicated that many could only lock the doors from the outside while some teachers have no key at all. Also, some classrooms, like Bailey's, had no landline phone or cellphone service.

Asked how safe they felt during the lockdown, 32% of those who responded to the query said they felt "very unsafe." Most said they might have felt safer if they could lock their classroom doors from the inside, with many adding that window shades could make their classrooms less vulnerable to an armed intruder on the outside.

Other safety suggestions: Have landline telephones in every classroom. Make sure cellphones work in all campus locations. Install sturdy desks where students can take shelter. Post color-coded evacuation routes in each classroom.

Even with the emergency was over some 30 minutes after it was reported, teachers said it took an hour before that word was conveyed to those in the lockdown.

"We were in there for 90 minutes with only rumors to go on," one teacher told Bailey. "It would have been helpful if we had received some kind of email or texted information telling us what was happening. We didn't know."

Another said: "I personally was appalled that the all-clear message instructed us to resume 'normal activity.' Really? What we just went through was not normal. Students were traumatized. I love my LPC family, but these actions mentioned were completely unacceptable."

Most disturbing is the fact that many teachers do not have a key to their own classroom doors, making it impossible to lock during an emergency. Many doors are not lockable from the inside at all, further endangering those in the room. Of the responses to Bailey's question about locks, 19 of 38 mentioned these as concerns -- a shocking number for such a basic safety measure.

One teacher said, "I would like to be able to lock the door from the inside as well as the outside. I'd like a landline in my classroom. I've been asking that for six years since I had a violent student in my class."

Some added, however, that they weren't sure how to react. They suggested mandatory training for all staff -- adjunct, full-time and administrative -- through online courses, literature or instructions during the hiring process.

It's clear that serious issues of student safety were put to the test. Bailey and others are hopeful LPC will address these concerns.

Editor's note: Jeb Bing is editor emeritus of the Pleasanton Weekly. His "Around Pleasanton" columns are published in print on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.


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Posted by keeknlinda
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:27 am

keeknlinda is a registered user.

While landlines and inside-locking doors seem basic steps to be taken and certainly teachers should be trained in what to do in case of a shooter, not all events in a young, or even an old, person' s life can be prepared for in advance. Merriam Webster defines emergency as:

an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.

The lockdown was clearly an emergency So would an earthquake be an emergency in which cell phones and landlines both be rendered inoperable. In the unlikely event of a tornado, the roof may blow off and students and teachers alike may sustain injuries. Expecting a school of higher learning to shift it's focus from education to iron-clad protection seems something of an over-reach. If we succumb to abject fear at this level, the bad guys win. We must not allow ourselves to become so frozen with it that it overcomes our sense of well-being, self-worth, reason, and thirst for learning.

Please, let's not allow our lives to be directed solely by concerns about our safety. Acknowledge that unfortunate circumstances do occur. We must not allow ourselves to become victims of our own fright. That thirst for learning must remain the primary focus of our colleges. The resulting understanding gained from said learning may ultimately lead to this whole discussion being unnecessary.

3 people like this
Posted by Tony
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Nov 16, 2017 at 7:13 pm

I agree that we should not become victims of fear and allow the tragedies that are so commonplace today to paralyze us. I wouldn’t let safety concerns get in the way of attending a concert or marathon. And there is nothing we can do to stop earthquakes and tornadoes so we go about our daily routine aware of these risks.

But to say schools of higher learning shifting its focus from education to ironclad protection is an overreach is a crazy and ridiculous statement. Overreach? Vcr No one is asking for bulletproof windows and doors or a vault-like classroom. They want to be able to lock a door and maybe throw in a working phone for good measure. I wonder if keeknlinda live/work in a place with no locks.

Fortunately, a custodian was able to lock the school’s door seconds before the shooter could enter earlier this week in Northern California. The same couldn’t be said for some classrooms at Las Positas. I think we can have keeknlinda’s “thirst for learning remaining the primary focus of our colleges” in addition to student’s and teacher’s desires to have a primary focus for keys and locks on doors. Not too much to ask.

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Posted by mike
a resident of Del Prado
on Nov 16, 2017 at 8:03 pm

Well, it's not about scrumming to fear it about being prepared. Its obvious the administration and staff at Las Posits College are not prepared for this specific emergency. Hey Las Positas contact your local police department and run some drills

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Posted by Curious
a resident of Del Prado
on Nov 17, 2017 at 7:52 am

Has Las Positas made any changes? Seems so basic to provide locks. It’s disturbing that a teacher has been asking for these changes for years and nothing’s been done.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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