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I Will Need a Key for the Classroom (Occasional Teachers Column)

Valence Young

Occasional teachers, like everyone else who works in the school, need to know how to protect themselves and their students during an emergency. In the event of a major incident or threat of school violence, there could be a lockdown. During a lockdown or a lockdown drill, educators must be able to lock the door to their classroom or other secure areas where they are working. Some school boards are not providing a classroom key to OTs. These school boards appear to be concerned that OTs may forget to return the key at the end of the day. But without this key, the educator cannot protect herself and her students during a lockdown. An OT who has to insist that a classroom key be provided may face a stressful situation with the principal before the school day has even started. School boards that don’t provide OTs with keys to the classroom are falling short of provincial policy and legislation. The Ministry of Education requires that all publicly funded school boards have a lockdown policy to ensure that a lockdown plan is in place at each school site, and that a minimum of two lockdown drills occur each school year. School boards have to measure up to the detailed guidelines for lockdown plans as described in the Ministry’s Provincial Model for a Local Police/School Board Protocol (2011). The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires that school boards and principals take every precaution reasonable for an educator’s protection. The OHSA also requires that school boards must provide information, instruction, and supervision to the educator to protect his or her health and safety. There is more to a lockdown plan than carrying a classroom key. A lockdown plan must include clearly defined  roles, responsibilities, and expectations for dealing with an emergency situation.  The plan includes expectations   for  staff, students,  parents, and police. Educators must be able to lock the door to their classroom or other secure areas where they are  working. There are lockdown practices for unsecured areas, like the hallways and  the gym, where an evacuation  may be required. There are additional actions for keeping people safe in por tables and washrooms, as well as in outdoor areas. Here are three steps to getting  ready for a lock down:

  • Ask for the classroom key. If a classroom key is not provided, inform the principal that you need a key in case there is a lockdown.
  • Ask for emergency plans including the lockdown plan for the school. You need to be informed about dealing with a lockdown drill or an emergency event.
  • If the door lock is faulty, report it to the principal as a health and safety hazard. A faulty  locking mechanism could cause a lockdown to fail.

If you cannot  get your hands on the classroom key, report this to your principal as a health and safety concern. Inform  the worker  health and safety representative at the school site. Call your Occasional   Teacher President for  support. Your OT  President  can get expert advice from  ETFO Provincial Office.