In 2019, America has seen over 40,000 gun incidents, resulting in more than 12,000 people dying. Of these incidents, over 340 were mass shootings. Students and parents are forced to ponder a difficult question: do students feel safe at school?
Different schools throughout America have been taking safety precautions, including Oconee County Middle School. Administration there recently installed an alert system to defend themselves against potential intruders. Staff can activate an alarm quickly so authorities are then alerted and can look at the school’s surveillance so they’ll know exactly where to go.
Precautions such as the system at OCMS have not been implemented in Clarke County School District thus far.
“I like that a lot. We have a district chief of police that we’ve talked to, and we’ve had conversations about that very thing. And we’re looking to do some camera improvements, as well as some alert systems,” Principal Derrick Maxwell said.
Some teachers weren’t so sure about the idea, though.
“I understand the impulse and fear behind that. But that moves us further away from being a school, and closer towards being an institution like hospitals and jails,” social studies teacher Ms. Sarah Milford said. “At the end of the day, if we spend all of our time worrying about that, we’re not getting the work done that needs to be done here.”
Administration said that they have added safety protocols in recent years, including some for after-school activities and events. There is also a large security staff of seven employees.
Students also worry if people actually care about their safety and concerns.
“In terms of safety, the chances of this happening are really slim, but my worry would be lack of caring. People don’t care enough,” sophomore Kori Edmonds said.
“People would ignore that this happened. They would grieve for a week and then it would be over, but our lives would still be shattered,” sophomore Violet Calkin said.
Administration says that the staff works to ensure everyone feels safe.
“A lot of my teachers go out of their way to make sure that students feel safe and help them resolve conflict peacefully,” Maxwell said.
Students said they would feel safer after changes in gun laws, more awareness, and even more direct preparation for any possible emergency.
“Personally, I do feel safe at Cedar. I have a hard time picturing an event like that happening, but you can never predict the future. A part of Cedar that could be more safe would be to have more drills and awareness if something like this were to happen,” Edmonds said.
Direct interventions such as metal detectors or pat downs are not easily implemented and could cause controversy.
“I think that there’s a fine line because you can’t really check people when they come in. Some people are gonna say it’s a violation of their rights. So I think we just need to prepare ourselves if it happens, which is a scary thought,” Calkin said.
Parents carry increased anxiety about student safety as well. Companies have even started to create bulletproof bookbags and door wedges that can prevent intruders from pushing their way in.
For Mr. William Lee, English department, planning is as essential as knowing how to handle any incident calmly.
“One thing is as an educator or administrator, you’re looked at as a leader, and when you have students looking to you in that role, if you don’t know what to do or if you panic that’s going to permeate through all your followers. So it’s really good for you to have a plan and stay calm and rational in these situations in order to deter that fear and worry in students,” Lee said.