School security in limelight following Parkland

written by Kyle Sanders
photo by Sam Gatewood

In an era marked by tragic school shootings, school safety continues to become a hot button topic.

It started on April 20, 1999, when two teenagers at Columbine High School in Colorado planted explosives and shot students, killing 12 and one teacher in the process. This event in 1999 thrust school safety into the national spotlight, which has now grown into a wildfire almost two decades later.

After recent events at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. and multiple other high schools across the country, school safety has become a top-tier priority.

At Jeffersonville High School, there are multiple aspects and measures that go into every school day to ensure the safety of students. Take just a few steps into Jeff High, look up, and there is at least one camera in the area, maybe more.

“Having extra eyes in the sky would make me feel safer,” said senior Brennan Schansberg. “(It helps) knowing that there will be more evidence against the culprit if an incident does occur.”

Cameras allow for video surveillance that can be helpful in watching over staff, students and visitors in the building. The recordings help ensure the safety of people in the building, and can be useful in identifying illegal actions, and the perpetrators of those actions.

Additionally, the video surveillance gathered can be useful if the matter goes to court.

According to Assistant Principal Charles Marshall, Jeff High has “a substantial amount of cameras” in and around the high school, as well as additional ones that have been added within the past few years. But not everyone thinks they’re as helpful as they may seem.

“I don’t think the cameras help ensure the safety of students at all,” said teacher Mark Felix.”I think they help show which students are doing wrong after the fact. We don’t have someone sitting down there watching monitors at all times.”

In addition to cameras, locked doors are vital to the safety of students and staff. While all teacher classrooms lock automatically when the door is closed, doors that lead outside of the school can be crucial to the safety of students. Locked doors can lead to keeping the students and staff safe, while giving the perpetrator a more difficult task of getting into classrooms.

Just days after Parkland, principal Julie Straight took to the morning announcements to plead with both students and teachers to keep the outer doors closed at all times during the school day. Traditionally, the only way to enter JHS from the outside is through a key fob, or to have the front office buzz visitors in.

“Keeping doors locked is extremely important for the safety of individuals within the school,” said senior Haley Adams. “It is essential that students stop opening side doors for outsiders to enter into the school without going through the safety system school has in place.”

But even when all of these precautions fail, JHS has taken to more direct practice to ensure the safety of all.

A few times a year, the school practices lockdown drills, where students and staff must find the safest way to stay hidden in case of a school shooter.

These practices, though, aren’t only at Jeff High. Lockdown drills are very keen at Southwestern High School in Shelbyville, Ind., which has been dubbed the Safe School Flagship and “Best Practice Solution” by the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association.

Southwestern has implemented an emergency fob, which sets off a school-wide alarm and notifies local law enforcement. Students are taught to barricade themselves in a corner, out of view of a potential shooter, behind a locked, bullet-proof door.

“I guess everybody does it (the lock down drill) differently,” Felix said. “Basically you use common sense and make sure you can get to safety. If you can get out of the building, get out. If you have to fight back as a last resort, fight back.”

And still there is one more important aspect to school safety: a school’s resource officers. In the case of Jeff High, that is officer Rusty Settles.

The National Association of Resource Officers (NASRO) is made up of school-based law enforcement officers, school administrators and school security/safety professionals working as partners to protect students, faculty and staff, and their school community. School resource officers, like Settles, are in the school all day, watching the hallways and watching the actions of students.

As school tragedies continue to occur throughout the country one thing will continue to be of utmost importance, making sure students return home safely each and everyday.

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