Friday, October 20, 2006
A student's view of school safety
The monumental and tragic Columbine shooting of 1999 was just one of the many shocking school shootings in U.S. history. Last year, in the Red Lake massacre in Minnesota, the security guard at the metal detector in the front of the school was the first of seven victims to be shot that day by a male student.
We are saddened and shocked when such violence happens across the country, but in our own peaceful town, could such a thing be possible? The recent shooting in Pennsylvania, where a truck driver held up an Amish schoolroom and shot five young girls, has Principal Arthur Dulong and the school board at CCHS thinking and talking about better safety measures for our own students.
Students themselves are often the planners and perpetrators of school shootings. Every so often a bitter staff member or a stranger looking for indirect revenge for something in his own life is the shooter. With over 1,300 students at CCHS and the countless teachers in the hallways, it's sometimes hard to distinguish between members of the school community and visitors, both welcome and unwanted. Bar codes have been put on teacher and student IDs, and plans for the 2006-07 school year include bar code readers to check people into dances and other CCHS events.
Upon entering the school on Tuesday, October 10, students observed that signs had been put up on stands in front of the main entrances, instructing visitors to please go straight to the office for a pass. All week students walked by these warnings and sometimes knocked them over as they went about their school day, but on Friday the 13th, freshman, sophomores and juniors were spoken to in homeroom about possibly improving security at CCHS.
Being a laid-back school, it seems that CCHS is unwilling to install metal detectors and lock all its doors, as many of the newer schools in the area have done. However, the idea has been raised that all students and teachers wear their picture IDs, all day, every day. By showing identification on a lanyard or a clip, administrators and teachers would easily be able to pick out visitors. It may also enable students to recognize unfamiliar adults during school.
This sudden fear for our safety has been brought up at this point because of the Amish shooting on October 2. The school is worried about recent students who may come back with hard feelings towards current students or angry people who may have a violent outburst. When the idea was raised during homeroom, students were asked for opinions and input on the subject.
Many seniors remain indifferent, because the change would not go into effect until the 2007-08 school year. There were stories and reports throughout the day of certain teachers who were actually opposed to the idea, protesting that some students are unable to be responsible for their homework, let alone wearing their ID every day. The general consensus throughout the school was that the idea of security is a good one, but student IDs are not the way to go. Bill Hisey, a junior, said, "I think it's really an ineffective way to make us safer. There are so many other security issues concerning our school - the money would just be better spent on drug-sniffing dogs or additional on-campus officers."
Other students were also concerned about safety at CCHS, and open to ideas, even those that may seem annoying at first. Elizabeth Karafotias, also a junior, admitted that the idea was not as horrific as some students made it seem. "I think an increase in security is definitely needed. Having our IDs showing is a good idea, but I know a lot of kids would be opposed to it." A lot of teenagers are indifferent, and believe that the security craze will fizzle out when the recent shooting heads out of mainstream news.
It was suggested that locks be put on all the outside doors that would then require a bar code to open. However, CCHS's architecture is such that one cannot get from one side of the school to the other without going outside at least once.
"There are a lot of doors," said Ned Roos, the station manager for WIQH. Would metal detectors cover the many entrances? "I don't think it's good for anyone's mental state to have to constantly be reminded of threatening conditions," Roos replied.
I had the privilege of speaking to both Principal Arthur Dulong and Assistant Principal Dr. Alan Weinstein on the Monday after the security subject was raised in homeroom.
Will IDs protect the school?
"Wearing an ID tag will certainly not protect the school," claimed Weinstein, "But security is always in the minds of any administration. When something like [the Amish schoolhouse shooting] happens, there is always a ripple effect, in every school, everywhere. It can happen anywhere." He made it clear that the subject of higher precautions at CCHS was brought to the younger grades to see their reactions and bring the important topic into our education. Principal Dulong agreed, standing by the fact that there are no plans to take immediate action or drastic measures. "[The IDs] aren't one of those things that will actually add security[CCHS] is a pretty laid-back community; students feel safe here." So bringing up the schoolhouse massacre was merely to create awareness? Dulong nods. "I wonder what people think." Steps are being taken, however small they may be, in the near future. Both administrators mentioned that faculty is being further consulted about the original ID plan, and also some creative solutions from the students themselves during the homeroom discussion.
The intention of these security rumors was not to scare students and parents, and it's clear that the administration is trying to be practical in their attempt to keep the high school community safe for all. Although there are still some who believe that criminals do not exist in our town, the reality is that danger is everywhere and at CCHS, it's important to make sure we can keep ourselves safe.
Editor's note: Carrie Abend is a junior at CCHS.
© 2006 The Carlisle Mosquito