After an unplanned lockdown this week, MSMHS administrators are taking stock of the effectiveness of current safety procedures, while also emphasizing the successful aspects of the day’s events. The lockdown, which took place on Monday, was triggered by a one-touch emergency system found on wall-mounted phones around the school, and it is currently unclear who initiated the lockdown.
At approximately 11:25 a.m., after the triggering of the one-touch system, an automated voice came over the school intercom system and announced the lockdown. Teachers and administrators in multiple locations responded swiftly, bringing students in open spaces like the cafeteria and upstairs common area into secure rooms and making sure doors were locked.
In the Great Hall, MSMHS principal Ms. Amatrudo and administrator Mr. Kuczenski brought students into the kitchen. After ensuring that these students were secure, Ms. Amatrudo moved to the main office to call 911. During this gap between the beginning of the lockdown and the 911 call, emergency responders had not been contacted.
Ms. Amatrudo explained that the one-touch system “is not directly connected to the first responder system,” so that when a lockdown is triggered, emergency dispatchers are not notified until a call is placed from the school. She noted that, even if the lockdown system was directly connected, MSMHS emergency protocols require administrators to call 911 as a backup measure.
After the 911 call was placed, Ms. Amatrudo said that officers from the Groton Police Department arrived in under two minutes, moving through the building from various entry points. After searching the building and ensuring that rooms were locked and secured, the police approached the situation as a “non-active lockdown,” as there was no indication of any violent threat in the school. Following this protocol, the police instructed Ms. Amatrudo to make a general announcement to end the lockdown. As a precautionary measure, armed officers remained stationed in multiple locations around the building as students left classrooms.
The one-touch emergency system has been in place since the summer of 2023, and came with the installation of new classroom phones. Previously, initiation of a lockdown required a multi-digit code to be entered, but administrators felt that this would take unnecessarily long in the event of a true emergency, and decided to switch to the one-touch system.
Ms. Amatrudo says that anyone — including students — can initiate a lockdown. The administration anticipated the risk of the one-touch system, and expected that there would eventually be either an accidental or purposeful false activation. Weighing these issues, however, Ms. Amatrudo said that the administration “decided that it was worth it, being able to know that we could respond as quickly as possible if something really bad was happening.”
However, Ms. Amatrudo emphasized the serious disciplinary penalties for an intentional false activation, saying that if “someone did hit the button as a prank, even if they didn’t realize how serious it was going to be, it is just really important that they know the impact that that has on our community, the people in the building that were really scared, I mean, there were people having panic attacks in the building, the parents who were very worried, all of the lost instruction that happened, and also the fact that we had essentially the entire on-duty staff of Groton City Police here, unnecessarily.” She added that any individual found to have done this intentionally would likely face a “major suspension”
Administrators from Marine Science have reached out to the Information Technology department at LEARN, the managing district of MSMHS, to determine which phone initiated the lockdown. The administration plans to fully investigate the incident through interviews and extensive review of camera footage, though Ms. Amatrudo expressed hesitancy over how easily the individual or group responsible could be identified.
In a Great Hall meeting Thursday morning, Ms. Amatrudo debriefed students on the events of the lockdown. While school counselors followed up with specific individuals on the days directly following the lockdown, this was the first large-scale conversation with the student body, who, for at least a portion of the lockdown, had no information on the threat level at hand. Ms. Amatrudo said that anyone who had concerns could talk to counselors and the administrators, adding “we are here for you.”
In an interview with The Current, Ms. Amatrudo emphasized what she felt was successful email communication during the lockdown, though she added the administration is “open to feedback” on this topic of communication.
Ms. Amatrudo said that any students who had concerns could talk to counselors and the administrators, adding “we are here for you."
Despite these successes, there were multiple issues with the day’s procedures. The automated lockdown announcement, which is supposed to play during the entirety of the lockdown, stopped after seven minutes. The administration is working to identify why this happened and how to ensure that is functioning for the future.
Additionally, Ms. Amatrudo noted other issues with the audio system, saying “I am working to fund some upgrades in some of our audio announcement equipment, because there are some areas where the announcements are very quiet.” She also mentioned other safety issues that the administration is working to address, saying “There are a few areas in the building we notice may need some additional cover” to protect against a violent individual.
Overall, however, Ms. Amatrudo emphasized the successful aspects of the day, saying “I’m really proud of how our students and teachers responded. She explained, “more than anything, it showed me that we had some really solid procedures in place,” adding that “the things we need to work on are minimal, compared to all of the things that went right.”