Picture this: a typical day at Highland High School. The halls are quiet. Students and teachers are busily working in their classrooms. Suddenly a voice rings over the intercom: “Students and teachers, there is an armed intruder in the building. Please lock your doors and go into your rooms.” A charged sensation washes over the school faster than a rumor spreads. At once, teachers go check to check if their doors are locked. A few moments later they comprehend that they cannot lock their doors — not from the inside anyway. Throughout the school, in horror they realize: every classroom has to send someone outside of their room to lock the door. Who would be willing to risk their life over a poorly positioned lock?
An active shooter in the building is the worst-case scenario imaginable for most high school teachers. Consequently, with these types of acts occurring at a frequent enough rate — most recently in Oregon earlier this month — teachers cannot avoid vividly envisioning this scenario.
“If something was dangerous such as an intruder, someone would need to go to the outside of the room to lock it.” Jacque Conkling, a highland Social Studies teacher says.
Not surprisingly, most people expressed that they would not want to be the one going into the hall to lock the door.
“If a shooter was in your vicinity when you went to lock your door, you’d be dead,” Highland student Diego Abalos says. “I wouldn’t be the one to do it”
In the past few years, school shootings have become an interesting problem. Districts are on edge wondering if they could be next. Still, issues such as the door locks are being put off in priority. The question is how long can it be put off before it is too late.
“When this school was built, violence in the schools was not the issue it is now,” history teacher Gary Rowles said. By “issue,” Mr. Rowles is referring to the prevalence of school violence in the media.
Back in 1956, the people who designed and built Highland High were not equipped to predict the consequences of social media and a twenty-four hour news cycle. Classroom doors that don’t lock from the inside was a non-issue until recently. Considering our current knowledge media knowledge of school shootings, the administration is obligated adjust the school’s structure accordingly. The school building is required to evolve with the new student situation.
The solution seems simple. Someone needs to come and replace the locks. It turns out that the solution is more complicated.
“It ends up being a capital project issue,” principal Chris Jenson said at a Highland School Improvement Council (SIC) meeting. “We have to find cheaper solutions to the problem.”
After some discussion, the SIC agreed that a special kind of magnetic lock would be the best option for the school’s classroom doors. For less than $1,000 the school could fit each classroom with one of these handy locks.
The highland administration and SIC decided that addressing this issue as soon as possible would be key to the potential safety of the school. As a result principal Jenson was compelled to look into the locks and the school’s purchase of them. He will be working with the staff to get the locks tested, purchased, and installed within the next few weeks.