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. 

Cheryl Stillwell January 10, 2013 at 11:10 AM
I did not know of the Loganville Patch until yesterday. If parents had known to go and look online at a specific location as "Loganville Patch" it would have helped to let parents know what was going on and that their children were safe. I realize that all families do not have computers, but at least they may know someone with a computer who can check for them if anything is going on at their child's school. Anytime a school goes into lockdown it should be aired on all the local TV stations, radios etc. That would help the people who do not have a computer. As soon as I heard about the lockdown at Magill I turned the TV on and nothing was ever mentioned.
Blake January 10, 2013 at 12:43 PM
My daughter goes to MAGILL i Definatly agree there needs to be a better way to inform parents. With the way technology is there is no reason not to. . When I was in college a few years back at Georgia perimeter you gave them a cell phone number incase of emergency they then put that # in there system.. When every there was an emgerancy situation during school hrs such as severe weather threats like tornado warnings in the area they would send a massive text out about what is going. I don't understand why school systems don't adapt something like that to inform parents. Even sending a letter home is not enough my daughter got home an hr and 15 mins after she should have. That letter did me know good during that time. My mother did see it on channel two news and while I was calling the school and bus transportation and police department the only info I got is everything is ok., my mother called the news station and was able to find out what happened ., does not seem right.. After everything that has happened recently for it to grt to the point i have to call because my daughter is not off the bus and then telling me my daughters school is on lockdown but everything is ok does not seem acceptable!' all I can say is I try to find the positive and at least the school did react to what they saw and that it was a great drill to see what needed to be done and they have the oppurtumity to see what needs to be fixed liked communication to parents
Rona Gibbs Watts January 10, 2013 at 01:49 PM
At first I was like, why are the parents upset. I would be thankful our children were safe. But to read further and see the biggest problem was Non-communication, no calls to inform parents, no one outside telling the parents in the car rider line would IRE me also. But the most important thing to remember is all the children are still with us and here to play and laugh and love.
gwinnis Satchell January 10, 2013 at 02:17 PM
The school system needs to improve their communication system. This is a very serious matter.
Becky January 10, 2013 at 02:58 PM
I would like to think that EVERYONE in those schools were busy ensuring the safety of the children and not near a computer, phone whatever to send out a message. And no one is coming out to carpool to tell parents why their kids aren't coming out if the school is on lock down, however, those parents shouldn't have even been allowed in the carpool line to begin with. A cop should have been there blocking it off. There was a fire at my children's school in September and the only way I knew about it was by my kids texting me. Granted, kids in elementary schools don't have phones to do so but I would not have known about the fire until I got home that evening and read the letter. Can communication be improved...ALWAYS. But please be thankful that they took all appropriate measures to keep your children safe. Don't be too harsh on them. Teachers and administrators have a thankless job and it's because parents always want to tear them down instead of praising for them for keeping our precious children safe.
Justin Rempe January 10, 2013 at 03:38 PM
I agree that the school did the right thing in locking the place down, but what I do not like is that the news evidently knew exactly what was going on before most, if not all of the parents did. The parents should be immediately notified of any situation similar to this in the future. That way we don't have potential targets sitting in the pick up line with little brothers/sisters messing around outside of the vehicles for an hour and a half (which is exactly what was happening-just in case some perpetrator decides to commit a wanton act of violence). Truth be told, the overall security of these two schools when the children are outdoors is pretty much non-existent. Sure, there are staff members out there, but there are woods and houses in the immediate vicinity that would easily cover someone wanting to do harm (and the elementary school does not have a good fence or barrier to separate it from these threats). I feel these issues, along with a better line of communication directly to the parents must be addressed, and addressed immediately. The Gwinnett County Board of Education and the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners will be hearing from me on these specific problems....
Cristina Balan January 10, 2013 at 04:01 PM
My daughter is in 1st grade there, it was terrifying and I was really disappointed in the school for not having a recording with any kind of information!!! I also agree that these small kids did not have to be able to read the letter that was sent home, my daughter talked about "bad man with gun" all evening long! I am grateful for everyone to be ok!
Michael January 10, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Thank goodness the administrators and staff were attending to the children during this time of concern rather than worrying about the making every parent happy. First let's take care of the safety concern which occurred at the very end of the day, then let's get the information that we need.
Rhoda Fleming January 10, 2013 at 04:56 PM
I totally agree with informing the parents as soon as possible. I understand the school's administration is to protect the students and the staff; however; we as the parents were NOT notified at all. I spoke with the prinicipal who said there was a email blast to everyone. I did NOT get an email which is strange because I get all the other emails pertaining to school such as pta and etc. The principal also mentioned they were on Twitter. But, I'm not on twitter, so I made a point to open a twitter account and the follow this site. The principal was very timely in getting back to me. However; I still think there needs to be either a text blast, email blast or phone blast to make an effort to reach each parent. When I called Gwinnett County Public school (Affairs Department) they were very defensive and addressed issues that didn't pertain to my questions. As parents we have a right to know why our children didn't come home from school on time. And it's our right to be informed of any emergency lockdown situations.
Rhoda Fleming January 10, 2013 at 05:01 PM
We all agree on the safety of our childrend at hand first. That's not in question. It's not even a matter of making the parent "happy". It's being informed on a timely manor. I do appreciate the staff and the police department; however there needs to be a cross the board communication for all parents.
Justin Rempe January 10, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Michael, you obviously do not have a picture of the entire situation. On top of your apparent lack of situational knowledge, I do not appreciate your severely condescending attitude. Your attitude then begs the question of whether or not you had/have family members present when the lockdown occurred? If not, I understand that people can post opinions, but I won't sit back and take scorn for a situation that you seem to know very little about.
Sharon Hetherington January 10, 2013 at 06:11 PM
I've been concerned about the possibility of a lock-down at school for years. I am vehemently opposed to the school system having the authority to keep me from my child particularly if the perceived danger is in the neighborhood of the school and not inside the school itself. Don't tell me I cannot have access to my child.
Justin Rempe January 10, 2013 at 06:14 PM
My wife and I tend to agree with you on that. The real question is, how do you allow access to children in these situations without endangering both the parents and the kids? There's no perfect answer (that is unless that have developed matter transporters that can be used in an emergency to get people out the door with no danger of exposing them to an imminent violent risk). Or maybe I'm just a Star Trek nerd....
Robin Payne January 10, 2013 at 07:58 PM
My son is at Grace Snell. I think that They schools had enough to so with keeping the children safe. I called the school at 4:42. They we're reassuring, informative and helpful. I would much rather my children be safe thanthe administration spend their times calling parents, tweeting or posting on fb. I think They did They best the could, under They circustances.
Jean Pierson January 10, 2013 at 08:06 PM
As a parent who didn't know where her child was for 45 minutes, I think they could do a better job communicating to the parents. It was terrifying!
Jean Pierson January 10, 2013 at 08:06 PM
I think a callingpost is the answer to the lack of communication
Bob January 10, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Get your degree and become an administrator since you have all of the answers.
Bob January 10, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Hey Justin, Get a degree and become an adminstrator....then you can have all the answers.
Justin Rempe January 10, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Bob (should I say Michael, as you're posting from the same IP address)... That is not a job I would want. Good on those people that do the work.
Amber January 10, 2013 at 11:51 PM
Other schools in Gwinnett County use a robo call system. Magill or Grace Snell do not. I know because I have students there and have for MANY years. Easy to do and doesn't take long to implement.
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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