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Malfunction caused false alarm lockdown at Cobb schools; created trauma for some families

'My middle and high schooler thought they were going to die.'

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — There were tense moments at Cobb County schools on Tuesday, as the district was sent into a code red lockdown. The district said a malfunction set the alarm off, but it left some students and parents rattled.

The alarm signals when there's an active threat on campus, requiring lockdown. When it happened Tuesday across more than 100 Cobb County schools, it sent some students and parents into a panic. 

A closed Facebook group with district parents shared concerned messages like: 

“My middle and high schooler thought they were going to die,” and, “My son texted my husband and I that he loved us and isn’t ready to die.

Though the threats turned out to be a false alarm, Dr. Saundra Maass-Robinson, a certified psychiatrist, said it can leave behind trauma. 

"This was a trauma, along with the recurring trauma of COVID," she explained. "Our children have been exposed to recurring threats for the past year."

"Today’s event more than likely triggered a different level of panic, anxiety and fear in them because they have been living with panic and trauma for the past year," she added.

Last year, a report on the impact of school safety drills for active shootings by the American Federation of Teachers and Everytown for Gun Safety showed an unannounced “code red” drill at a Florida high school in 2018 led to choas and panic attacks, with students believing a real threat was on campus. The report recommended always informing parents, students and teachers in advance of a code red drill to avoid trauma. 

The Cobb County district quickly notified parents the alarm was triggered by a malfunction, sending out a letter to parent saying, "Due to a temporary systemwide malfunction with AlertPoint, all schools were placed on a brief lockdown today. All lockdowns have been lifted, there was no threat to students or staff at anytime. Teachers are teaching and students are learning." 

Other parents saw the up side of the situation with posts saying: “Just be grateful they have that alarm,” and, “False alarms happen. Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.”

Dr. Maass Robinson said while it's true children are resilient, it is important for parents to talk through how the event affected them.

"With any traumatic event, you cannot be prepared for it, and what we don’t want is that your tolerance or exposure to a level of anxiety like that really does interfere with your ability to cope."