What changes and additions have been made to improve our high school’s safety?
One year ago, the world was left in shock as Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. East Lyme High School responded by exercising a walkout honoring the 17 victims of the shooting. Assemblies addressing school safety followed. Thousands of schools across the country have taken action to address and reevaluate school safety. Has East Lyme done enough? Is the high school more prepared today?
“You as students pick up information from texting, Snapchat, and other media. If something looks peculiar or a safety concern, you guys have to bring it forward. Nobody should be ashamed or afraid to do that. That’s a big piece of getting students involved and informed,” said Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Newton.
According to a Washington Post study, 25 school shootings were recorded in 2018 – the most ever recorded in a year. Numbers like these have an impact on students and teachers alike. Biology teacher Holly Buckley has taught at the high school for 19 years, and has children in the school now.
“Knowing my kids are in the high school doesn’t make me feel unsafe or uncomfortable, I trust that all of the staff in the high school would prioritize all of their students, including my kids, in the case of a threat,” said Ms. Buckley.
In the event of a threat, lockdown drills are practiced. One factor to take into consideration is lunchtime, when hundreds of students gather to eat in the commons. Out of 125 ELHS students polled, 67 percent said they weren’t aware of what to do if there were a lockdown during lunch.
“Having a drill during lunch would be effective, but managing it is a whole other ball game. Not to mention we can’t train students or staff for every possible scenario. A lot of it comes down to natural instinct. It’s like driving; an instructor can teach you how to drive, but they can’t teach you about other drivers,” said Director of Campus Security and Safety Christopher Olsen.
As said by Mr. Olsen, administration can only teach us so much, and can’t conduct practices for every possible scenario. Despite that, some students feel they could be ‘taught to drive’ a little more in depth, such as junior Ella Stone.
“I feel like I would know what to do in different situations, however I still think it’s important to repeat information to students and staff about using common sense. For example, we talk about going to the nearest classroom, but I think it would be important to emphasize what you do if you were outside or close to an exit and so on,” said Stone.
According to Mr. Olsen, no changes have been made in drills. Despite that, drills are always evaluated and assessed by the East Lyme Police Department.
East Lyme Police Department Officer Donald Hull has committed to East Lyme schools full time. Since the Parkland Shooting, East Lyme schools have been more involved with the police department, according to Mr. Olsen.
“These procedures and lockdowns are constantly evaluated and input is fed to the schools,” said Officer Hull. “We use the response to make suggestions on what could be improved or done more swiftly to the improve safety and security of students and staff.”
New locks were installed on every classroom and office door this summer. Double-sided locks allow teachers or staff to lock doors from the inside of the room to keep students exposed for as little time as possible.
It takes more than the administration and school staff to keep our school safe. It also comes down to students. Any comment on social media or in school that could potentially be a threat should be taken seriously. As a community, it takes an effort from everyone to keep eachother safe. If you see something, say something.