The Recent Lockdowns in Wake County

At least six different schools in Wake County have gone into either a code red or code yellow lockdown this month. There has been an increase in online threats, not just this school year, but more specifically in 2023.

Recent news stories about schools going into lockdown because of social media threats or the stories of students bringing guns into school have many people worried. Not just students and teachers but parents and other family members are becoming increasingly concerned with these recent developments at schools across the county.

Earlier in the school year, a student at Cary High School brought a gun to school. There have also been recent instances in nearby counties, specifically Harnett County, of two young children bringing guns to school. Thankfully no one was harmed in these situations, but the schools still went into lockdown. The two incidents in Harnett County seem to have brought up a discussion of weapon detection systems being put into place in their schools, in order to try and prevent future disturbances of that nature.

 In Wake County, five schools in the past month have gone into either a code red or code yellow lockdown. The schools that went into lockdown were Broughton High School, Dillard Drive Magnet Elementary School, Dillard Drive Magnet Middle School, East Millbrook Magnet Middle School, and Zebulon Magnet Middle School. East Millbrook and Zebulon both went into code red lockdown because of online threats to the school. Learning was disrupted for both schools and after their lockdowns were lifted, all students from both schools were sent home early.

What is the difference between a code red lockdown and a code yellow lockdown? A code red lockdown is when all doors inside the school are locked, and students and staff shelter in place and wait for the police to resolve the threat. Code red indicates an imminent threat to the school itself whereas a code yellow is a threat in the nearby community. In a code yellow, the doors to the school are locked and students and staff are not allowed to leave the building but may continue daily activities within the school walls. Both kinds of lockdowns are disruptive to learning, and cause many students to worry about what is going on around them. While lockdowns and the procedures that come with them are important for the safety of students and staff, it is still an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Wake County does not keep records of which schools go into lockdown, when lockdowns are used, or which type of lockdown is implemented. Part of the reasoning behind this is the size of the county; it is such a large district that it is hard to standardize the record-keeping. While it is not required by law to keep records of such things, many people are upset and are pushing for such records to be kept.

This is not the first time that online threats have become an issue or a disruption to classes. The semester before COVID hit, there were threats being circulated around a few high schools in Wake County. While it was still a problem and had many parents and students worried, there were not as many threats then as there are now. The threats in previous years were not taken as seriously either; while the people who made them still got in trouble, they were more clearly “jokes” posted on social media, rather than the ones recently, and schools did not go into lockdowns because of them. It is clear that the recognition given to threats of violence at schools often causes “copycat” threats. Much less publicity is given to the consequences of those making the threats.

So what is being done to stop this from happening? The people who are threatening the schools both online and in person by bringing actual weapons to school are being punished after the fact. It is illegal to bring weapons of any kind onto school property, but it is also illegal to threaten to bring a weapon to school. Despite the fact that threatening mass violence on school property is a felony, many first-time offenders do not get actual jail time. This fact is not comforting to many students or parents who are worried about their child’s safety. The main concern for both students and parents, however, is that there are no preemptive measures to keep these things from happening in the first place.

There have been talks about school safety at recent school board meetings following the threats that have occurred and officials are trying to come up with effective measures to prevent or at least reduce future threats. There are many different opinions on how to go about this, but the important thing is that it gets done.

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