WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Your child's safety at school is top of mind for any parent as we acknowledge we are living in a new world of school threats and lockdowns.
This week alone, we've seen a number of schools put on precautionary lockdowns from Palm Beach County to the Treasure Coast.
When you get that phone call or email that your child's school is on lockdown, many parents fear the worst. So how should you handle those tense situations and what should you tell your kids?
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education
Multiple code yellow precautionary lockdowns played out across our area over the past few days, including Jupiter Community High School for off campus activity and Jupiter Elementary School, which led to a search of the campus.
Port St. Lucie High School was locked down twice this week, first on Wednesday for a threat from a student deemed not credible, then again on Friday for a rumored threat on social media.
Also on Friday, Lake Worth Community High School was placed on a precautionary lockdown after the school's principal said a student brought a small knife to campus.
"To have that fear all the time, we should be in a better place where we don't have to have that," Martin County parent Sydney Thomas said.
Thomas said her kids dealt with a lockdown earlier this year.
"They were saying some kids were crying," Thomas said. "They were really upset. But then there was an entertainment to it. Just being really casual. It's such a normal part of their lives to think about school shootings."
This new normal is something Boca Raton psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Saltz said we have to talk about honestly with our kids.
"The first thing we need to say is, 'this has become part of reality and we need to prepare in the event that, God forbid, something happens,'" Saltz said. "For the most part, generally, schools are still really safe. Our homes are still really safe."
Saltz said students also need to understand the danger of making a false threat, like what happened at Port St. Lucie High School on Wednesday, which can lead to an expulsion and arrest.
"Any kind of false threat regarding gun violence is a crime and it's taken seriously," Saltz said. "Children are brought to psychologists. They are brought to mental health professionals. They can be incarcerated. They can be brought to a locked facility immediately in the event we're afraid that someone is not mentally well and there is a risk to children."
SCHOOL SECURITY COVERAGE:
- Some Code Red lockdowns could've been handled differently, Palm Beach County schools police chief says
- Metal detectors to be tested at some Palm Beach County schools
- School District of Palm Beach County considers allowing select school employees to carry guns
- Palm Beach County public school classroom doors must be locked, under new policy
- Palm Beach County School Board approves panic button system
"It's weird to see it being normalized in their academic career," Thomas said.
Thomas wishes she and her kids didn't have to deal with this. But when it becomes too much to bear as a parent, Saltz said to remember to take care of yourself, too.
"We have to remind ourselves that when these events occur, these lockdowns occur, we need to do our best to self-regulate, breathe, and take a minute to remind ourselves that the authorities need to be present and they are doing their job," Saltz said.
While school lockdowns happen frequently throughout South Florida and the Treasure Coast, many public school districts use varying terminology when it comes to lockdowns.
To see how each of our five local districts classify lockdowns, click here.