© 2024 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

County manager communicates ‘recommendations’ to NHCS safety officer after Hoggard High lockdown drill

Hoggard High School recently held a lockdown drill; some were concerned about the lack of advanced notice in the 'current climate,' according to the county manager.
Ben Schachtman
Hoggard High School recently held a lockdown drill; some were concerned about the lack of advanced notice in the 'current climate,' according to the county manager.

County Manager Chris Coudriet recommended that, for future lockdown drills, schools ensure that parents, teachers, and students, as well as law enforcement and emergency response services, be given advanced notice. While the district’s current policy doesn’t include advance notification of drills, Coudriet suggested the change to “align with the times,” citing in part a recent string of hoax calls aimed at schools.

County Manager Chris Coudriet recommended that, for future lockdown drills, schools ensure that parents, teachers, and students, as well as law enforcement and emergency response services, be given advanced notice. While the district’s current policy doesn’t include advance notification of drills, Coudriet suggested the change to “align with the times,” citing in part a recent string of hoax calls aimed at schools.

Concern about the lockdown at Hoggard was brought to the county’s attention by Chair Bill Rivenbark, according to an email sent Tuesday by Coudriet; he included county commissioners, top county administrators, emergency management officials, and Sheriff Ed McMahon on the email.

While the lockdowns are required annually, the concern seemed to come at least in part from parents who were not notified in advance — and who are on high alert after a series of hoax calls that have targeted schools both locally and statewide.

Related: Still dealing with last year's shooting, parents respond to 'swatting call' at New Hanover High School

Related: NHCSO: Another hoax suspected after active shooter threat locks down Holly Shelter Middle School

“Our team did some digging and prodding. It appears the school principal [and the SROs] determines when to do a drill. However, it appears with today’s drill law enforcement was not necessarily engaged on the front end. A drill for lockdowns is required every semester. Advance notice is not provided because it’s not ‘standard practice,’” Coudriet wrote.

Coudriet added that, “in the context of our current environment,” county staff has “made some recommendations to the school system, including that NHCS “change ‘standard practice’ to align with the times,” provide “advance notice to parents, students, and teachers” as a best practice, “at least for now,” and ensure “all response parties know a drill is forthcoming, i.e., the sheriff’s office and city police, emergency management, 911, the school system’s safety officer, etc.”

The county later clarified to WHQR that “the recommendations in Chris’ email were provided to the Board of Commissioners but they weren’t sent to the school board or NHCS administration as official actions they need to take. The county’s Emergency Management staff is sharing them with the school’s safety officer to have conversations about the best way to move forward.”

Coudriet himself clarified some of the points he made in his email, including how the timing of the Hoggard drill may have driven some of the concern.

“My recommendations were based on what we heard and saw as laypersons, outside of the school system, as a point of reference and to share constructive feedback with NHCS. I understand there are facets of their processes that we may not be aware of, but I wanted to provide suggestions based on our view of things and what we were hearing. Of course, we know there are many of these drills throughout the year and none, to my knowledge, have created the concerns that this latest one did. That is likely because of the current climate we are in, having just had two hoax active shooter calls that required significant law enforcement action and lockdowns of schools. From my perspective, yes — notifying students and parents of the drill to alleviate any potential panic makes sense right now and also notifying any potential responding emergency agency, like 911, is also important in this environment in the event they were to get any distress calls as a result of the drill,” Coudriet said, also pointing out that many students are in near-immediate contact with their parents, often faster than schools can get information out through social media or email.

Coudriet said a “further conversation” about active shooter drills was important in the “light of the current times we live in,” noting that he was “not sure a lot is gained if a drill like this is unannounced.” He acknowledged that, ultimately, protocol for lockdown drills “is something the schools will need to work through and will ultimately be a decision of the schools and their safety professionals, based on their expertise.”

The recommendations from Coudriet were “for now,” although he said there was “no time frame” in particular for how long they might be relevant.

“Things change over time and what is done today may not be the right way or the right approach in a year or five years from now,” he said.

A spokesperson for the district said, “We are grateful for the county's unwavering support in keeping our schools safe, and we look forward to carefully reviewing their recommendations.”

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.