School Safety: Are We Doing Enough?

On the evening of February 24th, Senior Kayla Woodman walked to the tables where Principal Steven-Dellinger-Pate and school board members sat for their meeting. She was there to discuss the safety regulations here at U-32.

Woodman suggested a “Safety Day” at the meeting, so that students can be taught how to perform aid on someone who was injured.

“The more knowledge we have,” Woodman said, “the more we’re able to protect ourselves and protect our friends.”

“If I saw my classmate get shot, I’d want to know what to do to protect them or to aid them.”

This is a personal subject for Woodman.

“I grew up in a family of people who are all mentally ill,” she said. Her sister attempted suicide with a gun, so gun violence is something Woodman is actively trying to prevent.

“This [the regulations] is all just for comfort. As a whole I feel safe in this school,” she said, “but not as safe as I should.”

Around the country, measures are being debated, such as arming teachers and installing metal detectors.

Here at U-32, however, different measures have been taken.

“In the last five years we have gone to having our front door locked and people need to be buzzed in,” U-32’s Student Affairs Director Amy Molina said of the safety regulations here at U-32.

The faculty have all been given swipe cards to get into the school in place of keys, so that if a card is lost, the card can be deactivated, so there is no concern about people gaining access to the school who shouldn’t have it.

School shooters aren’t the main drive for the safety regulations at U-32.

“While school shootings are in the national consciousness,” Molina said, “the reality is that we are more likely to be faced with a chemical spill in the science lab or a gas leak in the cafeteria than a school shooter.”

It appears that faculty at U-32 are more concerned with the emotional health of the student body.

“Teachers being armed is ridiculous,” English teacher Alden Bird agreed. “It changes the feeling of a school if you have metal detectors and makes it feel more like a prison. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

“When you start to turn a school into a prison, people start to act like prisoners,” Principle Steven Dellinger-Pate said. “I don’t want the school to feel like we’re viewing our students as threats.”

Spaulding High School’s administration shares a lot of these same views.

“Any time there is a tragedy, it awakens people’s fears about that area. We have seen this in every aspect of life, from airplane crashes, to terrorism, to ebola outbreaks at grocery stores and restaurants,” Spaulding’s Assistant Principal Luke Aither explains “The reality is that there are no quick fixes, and in this case, metal detectors would not stop someone from committing an act of violence if they really wanted to.”

 They’ve taken their safety measures a step further, though.

“Spaulding has been continuously improving its security procedures and facilities since a 2007 security audit,” Aither said. “After a review of many recommendations from the state and federal level a couple years ago, the Crisis and Emergency Response Team (CERT) decided to move forward with the ALICE Program.”

ALICE stands for Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate. It claims to be the number one active shooter civilian response training for all organizations.

ALICE offers an online interactive training course designed to help prepare for violent situations. There are opportunities for individuals in an organization to become an ALICE instructor, who can teach others in the community the rules of ALICE safety.

The procedure goes as the following:

  1. Become alert to the danger around them.
  2. Barricade the room.
  3. Communicate the violent intruder’s location, in real time.
  4. When it is safe to do so, remove oneself from the danger zone.

Some students at U-32 have expressed concern toward the ALICE program.

“I think some measures are necessary beyond what we have,” Junior Martin McMahon said.

He didn’t think the only issue was with school, though. “I think more of it has to do with law enforcement.”

“We shouldn’t have to live in a country where we have to be afraid of shooters,” Junior Lucy Wood said. “These types of trainings are potentially useful and could make kids safe, but we should focus more on preventing these shootings than preparing for them.”

Though school safety isn’t a black an white issue, everyone agrees that we want to stay safe.

Julie Sampieri, an exchange student from France, said she feels safe here in U-32, but still acknowledges the dangers that are occurring all around the world.

“I want to come back alive to France,” she said. “I don’t want any more kids to die.”