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Here Are The Safety Measures At Toronto's Schools & What Happens When There's A Threat

The difference between a hold and secure, and a lockdown.

Toronto Associate Editor
Toronto District School Board education centre.

Toronto District School Board education centre.

This article contains content that may be upsetting to some of our readers.

On Thursday, May 26, a few of Toronto's schools were forced into either a lockdown or hold and secure following reports that a man was carrying a rifle gun nearby.

Narcity spoke to Ryan Bird, the executive officer for Community Relations at the Toronto District School Board, to talk about what the TDSB's safety measures are like at their schools in light of recent events in Toronto and in the U.S., too.

What's the difference between a hold and secure, and a lockdown?

The main difference between the two affects whether or not students would carry on with their classes as normal.

A hold and secure is a response to a nearby threat or incident where the school will lock its outside doors as a precautionary measure, but everyone inside will carry on with classes as normal.

Lockdowns are more serious and are used when there is an emergency situation either inside the school or very close to the school's grounds.

"For a lockdown, all outer doors are locked but students and staff would remain in classrooms, lights would be turned off, staying away from windows and typically hiding under desks [..] and that's part of a lockdown procedure or a drill," Bird said. Per the TDSB, cell phone use is also restricted and students can't use their phones at that time.

All 583 TDSB schools hold a lockdown drill twice a year, Bird shared. So, when there is a safety concern, they know what they have to do in that situation.

What is the screening process for visitors during school hours?

On top of having their doors locked during the learning day, Bird shared that elementary schools come with secure access systems that include either an audio or video buzzer, assuring their safety measures are quite secure.

The doors are only opened when kids arrive for classes at the start of the day (and when it's time to go home), as well as during the lunch period.

"Anyone coming into the school would have to buzz in and [have] the door opened by a staff member before they can come in," Bird said.

If parents come to the school during a visit, they would have to say who their kid is before they can be let inside.

"If you have a reason to be there, then you could be admitted. But again, it's just up to each individual school based on who is buzzing in through the main door," Bird said.

For TDSB high schools, since students can come and go at different periods depending on their class schedules, it's slightly different.

"I do know some schools would lock some exterior doors so there's a lower number of entry points into the school that students and staff can come and go through," Bird said.

What other safety measures are in place?

Bird said that TDSB schools have "a number of measures" in place, as some schools have surveillance cameras and tons of "caring adults" who can help students whenever there is a concern.

"We also obviously work closely with Toronto police," Bird said.

"If they feel there's an issue in the community that needs our attention, they would contact the local school, as was the case [last week], and ask them to go into hold and secure or into lockdown."

Will the TDSB ramp up any of its security protocols in light of recent events?

As of Friday, May 27, Bird said the Toronto police haven't informed the TDSB of any extra precautions needed following the incident, since there was no threat to the community. The SIU later confirmed the suspect was carrying a pellet gun and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

"We're doing all we can to make sure that students and staff stay safe," Bird said.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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