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Lockdown at Elementary and Middle School Draws Ire from Parents

Parents of students at Magill Elementary and Grace Snell Middle say schools should do more to inform parents of what's going on during a lockdown.

After the frightening lockdown at Magill Elementary and Grace Snell Middle on the afternoon of Jan. 9, parents are calling for schools to communicate more openly during a time of crisis. 

Patch reader Garrett Cronnelly posted the following comment on the original story:

"To Magill Elementary Administrators:

While we felt secure that our children were being protected by procedures and their teachers, we felt that the lack of communication from Magill and Grace Snell Administrators for 1 1/2 hours from the school was ridiculous and terrifying. 

A simple recorded message would have been sufficient to calm our fears. Yet over 30 phone calls (neither school answered any of my repeated calls) and countless conversations with neighbors FINALLY led us to the AJC article that was published at 4:18 more than 30 minutes after my children usually arrive home. I drove to Magill to try to see what was wrong, but the officer outside the school would not speak to me and none of the parents in the 1/2 mile long parent pick-up lane knew any information.

JC Magill has a twitter account yet still no news from the school. All calls to Magill and Grace Snell are still going unanswered (4:40 p.m.). Magill website has no information. Gwinnett county website has no information.

When my electricity goes out I call Walton EMC and I get a pre-recorded message saying that they know my power is out, but they are on their way to fix it. How my electric company can be more sensitive to my family’s needs than our neighborhood school is completely unacceptable. 

Really, how hard could it be to put up a recorded message or a statement on your web page?"

Cronnelly also stated that information about the lockdown was sent home in a letter to concerned parents. His children, in first, second and fourth grade, read the letter, and were terrified.

"These letters should have been sent in sealed envelopes," Cronnelly wrote. "Having my second grade daughter read that letter on the way home is completely unacceptable. The words strange man, gun shots and playground are words she has been repeating all evening, now."

Gwinnett County PD PIO Jake Smith stated that there was a report of gunfire near the school, but that it was just teenagers with fireworks. The school went into lockdown at 3:20 p.m. and was not lifted until 4:15 p.m.

Do you think more should have been done? What would you recommend? If you have children at the two schools, Hhow did they feel after the lockdown? Tell us in the comments. 

Susan January 11, 2013 at 01:11 AM
After having lived here for 12 years. The police need to stop all the deer hunting back off Lake Carlton Road (North and South), constant gun shots, which can be heard at both of these schools. We are not in the country anymore. So it was fireworks? Well if it were 6am it would have been gun shots.
garrett cronnelly January 11, 2013 at 03:23 AM
Funny the principal would mention twitter. They didn't send a twitter update until 4:44 pm. An hour and 20 minutes after the lockdown.
garrett cronnelly January 11, 2013 at 03:26 AM
I am glad you got through to the school. Myself and others were terrified because we could not. As for spending time sending a tweet- it takes 2 minutes. Putting a message on the website maybe 10 min.
S L D January 11, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Righ on, Craig! Can you imagine how many calls the school gets once parents become aware of a situation at school? The press gets wind of this information because they are constantly monitoring the police department, not because the school calls them before calling parents. Job #1 for the school in this situation is keep the kids safe, not be a communication center. That is important, but comes later. I'd suggest if you can't get in touch with the school during an emergency, call the police.
Justin Rempe January 11, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Craig, I feel you are missing a very important aspect to the lockdown scenario. Dozens of vehicles continued to arrive at JC Magill "AFTER" the school was locked down, putting many more lives potentially into harm's way. I know this because my wife and youngest child were among those to arrive "AFTER" the lockdown, but before the police blocked entry and exit to the pickup area. An immediate text blast or some kind of electronic message SHOULD HAVE BEEN ISSUED to avoid precisely this situation. They pulled the bus drivers off the buses and placed them inside to protect them, but why wasn't anything done for the parents and other siblings of the school kids sitting in the pickup line? That is a very serious oversight that could lead to some horrible consequences! You'll have to forgive me if I have "disappointed" you, because frankly, it's not you I am concerned with....

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