Are Students Safe At Highland?


Sofya Akhetova

Some schools have gone to a no-backpack policy. This is what that could look like.

Caylee Caldwell, Opinion Editor

The classroom doors are all locked, the students are quiet, and every floor is deserted. There is a “game” of chase being played throughout the empty halls. This is what goes on while the students hide, this is how Highland prepares for a terrifying possibility that we all hope will never become reality.
The “chase” is an active, engaged intruder used at Highland, using a fake intruder and other “chasers” looking for the “intruder”. All around America, school districts have been reconsidering school safety and safety procedures. Because of recent devastating events throughout America, school districts are doing what they can to make their students and teachers feel safe.
Rose Spring Elementary in Erda has installed steel walls that can shut around intruders, Southwestern High School in Indiana (considered the safest school in America) uses cameras directly connected to the sheriff office, panic buttons that teachers can wear, and smoke cannons in their hallways. There are multiple other schools working to do the same.
What is Highland doing?
Not enough, in my opinion.
Of course, being realistic, there are restrictions Highland has and its layout makes things difficult in some aspects, but there is still more that we, as a school, can do. Being in the Sugarhouse area means that there is high commuter traffic all around us and it also means we’re next to a large, public park. Being in the area that we’re in means we can’t take our school’s protection lightly.
One thing being the lock blocks that every classroom is supposed to have. Highland is a relatively old school, meaning the classroom doors lock from the outside, which would prove to be dangerous in intruder situations. Some classrooms have installed lock blocks on their doors so that teachers no longer have to go out into the hall in order to lock their doors, and Highland made the promise of buying and installing lock blocks for each classroom that didn’t already have one. Yet, despite that promise being made a year ago, plenty of classrooms remain lock block free. These lock blocks are simple solutions that increase our safety, but we can’t seem to even install those.
Talking to principal Chris Jenson, I was promised that all doors besides the front two main doors are locked after 8:00 am, and though that might be true, doors are often propped open by students or even teachers for convenience, leaving an unsafe window for bad situations.
I don’t think that we, as students, are being unrealistic when we ask for small situations like these to be fixed or bettered so that our safety might be ensured at our own school. We’re no asking for smoke cannons or steel walls, but we shouldn’t have to beg for simple solutions
According to principal Jenson, the school has taken quite a few steps this year to provide a safer school environment.
“The newest thing we have is a software called DIR-S,” Jenson said.
DIR-S is an active software system that enables administrators and teachers to communicate in emergency situations in real time. This new program allows for quicker school-wide communication that uses a map to see safety issues building-wide.
As mentioned, Highland has also become much more strict with their school doors and other things. There is 24/7 security camera footage being viewed and watched during school hours and the school goes through different drills regularly.
“This has been said many times, but see something then say something,” Jenson said. “If you have that pit in your stomach feeling, like you probably should speak up, then do err on the side of caution.”
This is the start to safety. We may have DIR-S and drills, but if we don’t speak up when we feel unsafe than those things may prove to be pointless. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, either in an active situation or because you believe the school isn’t as safe as it should be, then you have to speak up. As a school, we have the cameras, the communication, and the basic safety precautions, but looking at schools like Rose Spring and Southwestern, we have to, once again, ask if we have gone far enough.
SPA student, Gwen Smith, agrees with me in thinking that we haven’t.
“If something were to happen at school, I feel like there would not be much to keep us protected like we would most likely need to be,” Smith said.
Smith doesn’t feel safe, she feels almost trapped. When she thinks about it, a wall and a locked door are not quite enough to make her feel safe, and evacuation doesn’t exactly provide a safe place for students to escape to.
“At my old school, you had to be buzzed into the building if it wasn’t between classes or after school. I never felt like I could be in danger with the buzzer in place,” Smith said.
Throughout different schools and across America, there have been rumors and suggestions on what schools should be doing to be safer, such as using buzzers like the ones Smith mentioned. Another suggestion is arming teachers. When we’re talking about severe situations, like those involving intruders, there’s only so much that can be done. While anyone is allowed to carry guns if they’re licensed and that is their choice, I I don’t think that arming teachers for the purpose of protecting students is going to solve as many problems as hoped.
“Arming teachers will scare away a lot of students, or even provoke some kids to possibly arm themselves,” Griffin Broadbent, another SPA student, said.
Adding more firearms into the mix isn’t a solution, there are too many things that can go wrong. We can’t fight guns with more guns, but maybe we could take a lesson from other high schools that have taken steps forward and their safety precautions. There will always be a cost, but how much of a price can we put on our safety? On our lives? Maybe we can’t have steel walls or hallway smoke, but we need to start taking steps forward- installing the lock blocks or being more careful with our doors.
Smith and Broadbent and plenty of others have thought about situations involving their safety, and while there are plenty of students who do feel safe, there are still those that don’t. No student should be afraid of their own school.