Reflecting on the past: how to make schools safer

Cody Kopanski, Staff Writer

A mother’s son, who now just started kindergarten, is riding home from his first day of school. His mom turns on the local news station on the radio. Her son hears three words come out of the speakers: school, shooting, killed. The son’s suddenly afraid to go to school next day. The mother asks her son why he won’t go to school, and he tells her that he’s scared. He doesn’t want to get killed.
Kids as little as five years old are already practicing hiding from potential danger in school. The United States has 57 times as many school shootings than any other nation combined, according to CNN. The truth is that kids today do lockdown drills more than they run the mile.
“My sister spoke about how my nephew had to start practicing lock down drills when he was six,” said Jessica Bernacki, English 2H and III teacher. “It breaks my heart that kids have to be exposed to school violence at such a young age.”
The United States has had 288 school shootings since 2009, and over 65 in 2018. The countries with the most school shootings besides the United States are Canada and France, with only two school shootings since 2009, meaning the U.S has had 144 times as many shootings than Canada and France since 2009.
“The amount of violence and shootings in 2018 is outrageous and obscene compared to those statistics in other countries,” said Kylie Kirk, sophomore.
Many kids are now afraid of getting an education because they feel their safety is in jeopardy when they go to school.
“There have been times where I was a little afraid to go to school after hearing about potential shooting threats,” said Blake Scott, junior.
However, schools, including South, have been taking action in improving campus safety to help prevent these tragic events.
New lockdown training, called A.L.I.C.E training, has been introduced to South hoping to increase the odds of survival during an intense lockdown.
The system stands for “Act, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.” Many students approve of this drill.
“Alice training has made me feel safer during lockdown drills because I feel like I am more protected,” said Allison Miller, junior. “With the ability to defend myself, I don’t have to rely on flimsy door locks.”
Miller isn’t the only one to approve of the drill, though.
“Alice training made me feel safer because it forces us to take action better and faster,” said Scott.
Students seem to like the drill because they can act offensively and defensively.
“I feel safer during Alice training because knowing that now we can fight back makes me feel a lot better than being silent and sitting in a corner, defenseless,” said Kirk.
Kids now are able to fight back and defend themselves, whereas before Alice training, kids only sat in a corner with only hope that they wouldn’t get hurt.
Some teachers also approve the system because their safety is just as in danger as the students.
“I think that it was a great idea to move to A.L.I.C.E training. I think that being prepared and knowing what to do in a dangerous situation is key,” Bernacki said.
School safety has motivated students to stand up for their protection. Last year, an international high school walkout was organized by kids who wanted change.
According to TIME, on April 20, 2018, students had the opportunity to walk out of school at 10 a.m. to protest the use of guns and encourage action to help the safety of kids in schools. This was due to the recent Parkland shooting that happened on Feb. 14, 2018.
“I attended the walkout last year because school is supposed to be somewhere safe where kids can come to escape whatever they have going on life, but when you come to school scared that it’s going to get shot up every day, something is most definitely not ok,” Kirk said.
The walkout occurred on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting that took place April 20, 1999. This was the deadliest high school shooting in U.S history at the time, killing twelve students and one teacher.
Several schools in big cities such as Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Missouri participated in the walkout.
“I think gun control should take action because if the intruders can’t get the guns, there wouldn’t be shootings in the first place,” Scott said.
Different school districts are upgrading their school safety in many more ways.
For example, the New York Post says that the Ennis Independent School District, located less than 45 minutes outside of Dallas, announced that all kids must always wear clear backpacks and their ID’s on school issued lanyards.
Clear backpacks are also used in places such as Laurinberg South Carolina, Long County Georgia, and Parkland Florida.
Using clear backpacks helps monitor any potential weapons that can be stored inside of them, while school ID’s around students’ necks can be used to catch anybody who doesn’t go to that school.
“The school could improve the building safety by implementing an ID policy, where students would have to prove that they go to the school. That would abolish the threat of intruders,” Miller said.
“South can make the school safer by checking people at the front door when they come in,” Scott said.
Bag checks and metal detectors are now being used by numerous of schools to prevent danger.
Panic buttons have been implemented into schools like South in case of emergency.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that around two years ago, emergency panic buttons were first installed in elementary schools in Georgia. Now, every school district in Atlanta has this button.
Once the button is pressed, the school goes into immediate lockdown and alerts the school police dispatch and the county’s 911 center. Police shortly arrive on the scene to stop chaos.
A factor not focused on as much as others when it comes to school safety is the mentality of students.
“I think an increase in knowledge and effort to better the mental health of teens and children will definitely help put a stop to all of these recent school shootings,” said Kirk.
There are many school shooting incidents where the gunman has not been mentally stable. For example, Fox News says that in a study of 185 mass shootings in the U.S, 59% were committed by people with some sort of mental illness.
Only 1/3 of people who have participated in mass shootings received mental health care prior to the event. This means 2/3 of these did not seek or receive any mental health care.
“We need to be kinder to everyone we come across on a daily basis because we never know what’s going on at home or how they’re feeling,” Kirk said.
Overall, numerous amounts of schools have decided to upgrade their safety policy due to recent mass shootings in public schools, places that are used for educating.