School Safety

By now, it has been a month since gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. On the day that celebrates love, 17 families and thousands of individuals were left mourning.

The warning signs were present in Cruz. According to the New York Times, “more than once, Mr. Cruz was identified around him as someone capable of carrying out a school shooting”. What is difficult for law enforcement, however, is that it is hard to reprimand a possible shooter without knowing what they intended to do. This was the case when the FBI did not arrest or go after Cruz after leaving a post saying he was going to “be a professional school shooter”, but did not specify a time or place.

Because it is nearly impossible to predict a school shooting, schools practice “code-red” drills to try and let students know what they should do in the unlikely event of a dangerous threat in the building. In these drills, students gather in a corner or behind desks, lock the door, and turn off the lights. Disturbing Snapchat videos show students crouched behind desks with smoke coming in the room from the gunfire in the hall. In the audio one can hear loud gunshots as well as the screams of students and faculty. The pictures from Sandy Hook Elementary School after the December 14, 2012 shooting showed 1st and 2nd graders walking out of the building, crying, with their hands on the shoulders of the kid in front of them. My mind flashed back to those pictures when 16 and 17 year olds were doing the exact same thing in Parkland.

Five years after Sandy Hook and dozens of school shootings later, students only have code red drills to rely on for survival because of the lack of legislation at the state and federal level.

How effective are these “code-red” drills? Well, take our JMM for example. Several classrooms have either no real walls, or glass windows lining the hallways, in particular, the second floor where the math wing is. Mr. Kvistad teaches in the room in the middle of the math wing that has temporary walls. During a code red drill in his room, he and students open up the back wall of their room and exit. They then go to a different room that has a locked door. When asked if he thinks code red drills are effective in preparing someone for an outside threat, Mr. Kvistad responded “Yes. I think it’s sadly a reality we have to live with [school shootings] and if we didn’t have such preparation I don’t know how else we would prepare students. I think there have been 30 mass shootings this year. That’s about one every other day. So we have to prepare for that reality”. However, even though code red drills are effective and important, he expressed that “regardless if there’s a door in this room or not, it’s not really safe. Ideally, yes, we would have walls, but with the plan we have in place, I think we have ample time for me and my students to be safe”.

Even though it is hard to know how exactly one would react in the event of a threat in the building, like a school shooter, teachers and students have not forgotten the importance of being prepared. However, it is clear that safety is, and will continue to be, a concern as long as bump-stocks are not banned, assault style weapons are in the hands of people they shouldn’t be, and school shootings continue to get closer to being status quo.


– Leah Vredenbregt

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