Each time a school shooting unfolds, an uproar of argument over gun control, school security and mental health is sparked. These debates usually rage on for a few weeks, then fade into obscurity as they are overtaken by more recent events. However, the close proximity of Florida schools to the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School, combined with the efforts of the student victims, has kept awareness of gun violence in the minds of teachers, parents and students. Many students want to know what permanent changes are being made by the administration to help ensure their safety.
Principal Kelly King expressed the position of the administration, which is taking security and emergency preparation concerns as issues of maximum importance.
“Our top priority, well before the events that happened on Valentine’s Day, is student safety,” said King. “The administrative role has been reviewing all of the procedures we have to help control access to our campus and to limit points of entry, and making sure students know that if there were ever the potential for a shooter, or an actual shooter on campus that you all know what to do.”
The administration has heavily reviewed the procedures and policies regarding security on campus, and is making efforts to ensure that the daily flow of people into and out of the school is monitored and restricted, without revoking student freedoms and creating a noticeably restricted environment. Gates and other entry points to the campus will stay locked during the school day, along with classroom doors.
Requiring teachers to lock their doors will lower response time in the event of an emergency, but practicing procedures remains the most powerful tool in dealing with any situation. Despite the wild variability in how an emergency could play out, general lock down and evacuation drills provide students with a basic framework detailing how to deal with a wide variety of crises.
“It’s always important to have a plan in place and to give students the opportunity to ask their teachers questions about concerns that they might have. We realize that when a real situation unfolds we won’t always have the luxury of time, which we have in a drill,” said King.
King also emphasized the importance of open conversation between teachers and students about plans for an emergency, in hopes that it will help increase preparedness and reduce anxiety in students.
“I think that it’s a piece that has been missing before, we haven’t really had that conversation. It’s important to me for students to feel safe. A lot of the things I’ve heard is that there is some anxiety about it, that people are stressed, but now they’ve had the opportunity to ask the things that they had thought of, but never had the chance to ask,” said King.
Despite the low likelihood of a given school to experience an emergency such as the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, the administration is taking safety and preparedness very seriously. In addition to preparedness, concerns about safety are being handled very seriously. King emphasized the importance of “See something, say something” to ensure that no opportunity to prevent an emergency is overlooked.
Jack Comiskey // Senior Staff Writer