In Welcome to the USA handbook, hosted participants are informed that schools have emergency procedures and protocols (including Lockdowns and Shelter-In-Place) in place covering events such as fire, medical emergencies, bomb threats or active shooters. The purpose of these drills is to prepare the student body and school personnel to react responsibly, effectively, and to help ensure the safety and well-being of students. AFS students are expected to participate in these drills appropriately. As student safety is taken very seriously in school, any misbehavior during the drill may be subject to school disciplinary action.
Some of these drills may be announced in advance and others may come as a complete surprise to all participants. It is important for your host student to follow the guidance they have been provided by their teachers as it’s always possible that when an alarm goes off, it may actually be a true emergency.
To clear up any possible confusion, here’s an explanation of each term.
- A LOCKOUT means that there is a possible threat outside the school, and no one is allowed to go in or out of the building until it is lifted. During lockouts, all activities inside the school continue as normal.
- During a LOCKDOWN, there is a perceived threat inside the school, or directed at the school. The hallways are cleared, classroom doors are locked, and students must stay away from doors and windows.
- A SHELTER-IN-PLACE is enacted when it may be harmful to leave the building, or there is no time to evacuate. Hosted participants are also informed that jokes about terrorism, possession of a weapon, a bomb, or any other items that may compromise the safety of the students are considered a serious offense and can result in police involvement and prosecution. AFS participants must NOT make jokes that may be interpreted as threats.
Talking to Youth About Violence has more information and tips on how to talk with your hosted participant about this topic and/or the realities of firearms in the U.S. context.