By Amanda Ojeda
After several school shootings in the nation, such as the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings, school safety protocol has adjusted significantly. This includes changes to police protocol, school faculty and staff being better informed and trained on the subject matter, increased installation of security technology at school entrances, and more cohesive emergency plans.
The recent mass shooting on November 30, 2021, in Michigan, has sparked increased conversation on school safety, gun control, as well as mental health support in communities. Many school districts have reacted by remaining consistent with their faculty and staff training, safety procedures, and installing security technology.
East is known for its open floor plan, but we should keep in mind that just like any other layout, it has both advantages and disadvantages to it. Assistant Principal, Ms. Charleson-Smith, who also handles school safety protocol, added that, “When people look at the school, one of the first things they notice is ‘no doors’, and although it is different from locking everyone in a room, like we’ve been taught all our lives to do, at the same time, it provides us with more opportunities to run to different areas, and move quickly.” As she said, the no doors concept eliminates certain barriers that may prevent movement around the school with ease, which gives more flexibility for teachers, faculty, staff, and students to reach a safe area.
Security technology at the main door is planned to be implemented during the summer of 2023. This specific security measure will take the form of a vestibule. People entering the building who are not registered students will go through the holding tank that we currently have, let in through the locked front door, into a vestibule where their ID will be checked and then granted access to come into the building if needed. If they’re dropping off items at the school, a table will be laid out in the area. This implementation will improve school safety by giving a better means of knowing who is in the building. The reason for choosing the main door is because it is the one point of entrance throughout the school day, with the other doors remaining locked, which is another safety measure that is already in place. Other safety measures include the current procedures we have for issues both within and outside the school, as well as having our own SRO (School resource Officer) in the building.
Ms. Charleson-Smith continued by outlining the key things that one should keep in mind during a lockdown:
- Listen to the PA. “Students should look for the announcement ‘Lockdown. Lockdown. Lockdown.’ on the PA”. This is the official announcement that will initiate lockdown protocol.
- Have situational awareness. “That is when your run hide fight comes in….Having situational awareness is what will keep you safe, always. Paying attention to what you hear, what you see, where you are in the building, and what’s your closest point of escape.” These are all questions one should ask themselves when assessing the best options for them. In terms of being in the commons, the best thing not to do is to stay still. First, assess the situation and figure out the best place to go to. You have the option to run, hide, or fight. Look closely at the area and what you can use to your advantage, for example what can be used as a barrier. “You have to be quick, ready to move, and to run… Ask what I need to take with me and what do I not need to take with me.”
- Pay attention to the adults surrounding you. Adults in the building are trained to the best of their ability and know the safety protocol, and can help groups determine the best options for safety.
- Disregard announcements and fire alarms after the initial “Lockdown. Lockdown. Lockdown” on the PA. “If someone comes on the announcements and they say ‘Lockdown Over’, you just keep following the protocol of the lockdown. It’s not really over until a police officer, or an administrator comes into the room and says it’s over. You want to physically see somebody.” Along with waiting for a police officer or an administrator to physically let you know the lockdown is over, disregarding fire alarms is another safety measure one should take after the initial lockdown announcement. Unfortunately, fire alarms during a lockdown are pulled in order to draw people out of the building. So, unless you physically see a fire, do not evacuate the building.
In terms of what you can do to keep the school safe, you can pay attention to the lockdown drills, and keep the school doors locked. We will be doing modified drills until COVID rules change, and will have a total of 4 drills throughout the school year. “The thing that will make the building, students, faculty, staff, and everybody, the safest here, is if every person in the school community inside, teachers, staff, and students, keep the doors locked.” This will help ensure the safety of people within the building, mainly by keeping those who have not been verified at the main door, outside.