Guns And Fear

Highland is unprepared to deal with gun violence, and it's making the student body afraid.

Sophie Bauer, Copy Editor

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On a normal day, students stream into Highland and out of it; leaving with both new knowledge and their lives. But as high schoolers in a America, increasingly plagued by school shootings and domestic gun violence terrorism, we’ve come to anticipate the fact that today might not be normal.

As school shootings bridge the gap between abnormality and reality, schools must confront gun violence and student safety head-on. Schools must work to increase school security, take larger preventative measures, and prepare both their teachers and their students to survive in the event of a gunman through efforts like shooting drills, lockdown drills, and education materials.

And schools like Highland are failing.

Consider this: A student attends a school with a large student body and an open campus located adjacent a public park. There are multiple entrances to the school that are left unguarded and unlocked at all hours of the day. The school typically has one lockdown drill per year to give teachers and students an opportunity to practice the plan devised in case a shooter enters the school – but not all the rooms inside the building have the capability of adhering to it. Almost every day that student goes home and hears a story about a man with a gun who walked through an unlocked door and opened fire. And many of these stories take place in schools, just like theirs, where that man is a fellow student and that gun kills people just like them.

As a student in that school, I feel justified to make the following claim:

Highland is unprepared to prevent and combat gun violence, and it’s making its student body afraid.

Because really, when you go to a school that has as little security as Highland does, as little planning, preparation, and communication, how else are you supposed to feel?

This year is my last year as a student attending Highland, and about once a day I have the conscious thought that I could die today. Three years ago, I came the closest in my life to doing that because of an act of violence aimed against a school. I’m not the only one who remembers being shuffled down to the auditorium and sitting, knees pressed against the scratchy theater seatbacks, as the police rushed to search the school after somebody called in a bomb threat. We were lucky that day — not only did we get to leave early, we got to leave. But we might not ever be that lucky again.

As I exited the building, I found myself in a discussion about why we had never heard that this was what we were supposed to do in case of a bomb threat. Shouldn’t the school consider this possibility and make sure that everyone was on the same page about it? Evidently, be it oversight, accident, or administrative confusion, that wasn’t what ended up happening. Insead, we learned how to deal with a bomb threat inpromptu – by being thrown into the midst of a bomb threat.

Highland’s gun policy is much the same way.

Not only do they leave numerous entrances to the school openly available at all times, they seemingly have no cohesive idea about what to do if a shooter takes advantage of that opportunity. This year, we’ve had no drills to see what we’re supposed to do in case of a shooter. True, we’ve heard Run, Hide, Fight! For the last couple of years. And true, there might be time to schedule these drills later in the year. But shootings can happen any day, to any school in America. If nothing else, that’s what the last few years have taught us.

And we can’t afford to learn how to react in a shooter situation impromptu.

Some might say that there’s no way to really prepare for a school shooting. That statement isn’t completely false, but it fails to take into account the fact that we don’t have to go into this blindly.

We don’t have to go into this having no idea about how doing the things that we’ll need to do feels like. Highland should, ideally, have at least one active shooter drill a year — it’s the closest we’ll be able to come to getting the best foundation for how to cope with a crisis — but if all we get are lockdown drills, then we need to have them in a timely, and somewhat consistent, manner.

Better yet, if the school took it upon itself to lock every door that isn’t guarded after the class bell rings at 7:45, maybe they could stop the shooter getting in.

Ultimately, school shootings aren’t a problem that Highland’s administration can solve on its own. As students, we need to be vigilant and report anyone who we suspect — or, in some cases, know — will shoot up the school. That’s what saved West High School on Wednesday the 28th of August when a shooting was attempted.
But if we do our part to make sure the school is safe, Highland needs to do its part. It needs to have better building security — including locked doors and metal detectors — make sure every door has a lock block, make sure that it does everything it can to prepare us for what happens when reporting someone isn’t enough.

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