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Will We Ever Truly be Safe in School?

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Kylie Tedeschi'19
28 January 2019

As of November 2018, there have been a 307 recorded mass shootings in the United States in that year alone. In 2017, there were 345 (according to the Washington Post). This staggering information presents one of the most prevalent safety issues faced by Americans today. All Americans, with students across the country being the majority, are forced to live with the very real fear of being attacked in a shooting.

PV students remember Parkland victims on March 14, 2018; photo credit: Valley Echo staff The fear of shootings, particularly in school environments, has caused schools all over the country to take their own form of preventative action, and develop safety measures in event of a school shooting taking place. Passaic Valley High School falls into the category of these schools, having developed a lockdown procedure in an effort to protect its students.

Although lockdown drills were created in an attempt to save students’ lives in the event of an active shooter, they seem illogical in practice. In a standard lockdown procedure, students huddle together in the corner of a classroom to essentially hide all signs of life to an outside attacker looking in. The door is locked, lights are turned off, and windows are covered to prevent a possible shooter from seeing whoever is in the classroom. In theory, this seems like an effective safety procedure. It avoids chaos, and should lower the likelihood of an active shooter entering the room and inflicting harm.

However, the reality of this procedure is that in the event of a school shooting or attack, twenty students huddled in a corner would likely end up dead. There are incredible flaws present in the current lockdown procedures in place at Passaic Valley that need to be addressed, and possibly even altered to save lives in the long run.

Because of the fact that the concept of a lockdown drill has become nationally integrated into our schools, the procedure itself is nationally known. The likelihood of a shooter knowing the standard lockdown procedure is incredibly high, and the drill has the potential to do more harm than good in event of a shooting. If an assailant can get into a classroom during a lockdown, they can easily pick off students contained together in the corner of the room. As time has begun to pass and the concept of a lockdown procedure has become common knowledge, it seems to be more and more useless and counterintuitive in the event of a shooting.

Senior Zoe Weigele commented, “The concept of a lockdown drill gives me no comfort, honestly. If a shooter ever made their way into the building, it’s not like they would be fooled by an empty school with dark classrooms. If they can get through a door and into a classroom, they will kill us.”

Another prime example of the flaws of the lockdown drill system would be the lunchroom drill. Every student in the cafeteria is huddled with hundreds of others in either the Senior Cafe or the Teen Center. If someone were to attack the school and knew where to look, they could kill an immense amount of students at once.

It is abundantly clear that the flaws of the lockdown drill system pose several issues to our school. If we were ever to be attacked by a shooter (who would likely come from the school themselves, as seen with many mass shootings in the past), they would know precisely what to do to work around our dated system. What can be done to make Passaic Valley safer? How can we improve lockdown drills to ensure our survival?

One of the simplest ways to solve this problem is to address the faults in the lockdown drill system and fix the way they are done. This could be done easily by having an individualized procedure in the event of a lockdown. Different rooms throughout the school are laid out differently, and need individualized procedures to ensure student safety.

Ms. Mary Garofalo delineates one of several improved ideas for lockdown procedure in the event of a shooting. Just outside of her classroom, there is a ledge where, if need be, students can hide outside and not be exposed to the attacker. Methods like these need to be created and individualized to classrooms all over the school.

By developing individual lockdown procedures by class, teachers and students can increase the likelihood of their survival in the event of a school shooting. Of course, there is unfortunately no solution to guarantee the safety of an entire school in the event of a shooting, but Passaic Valley should be taking steps to raise the chance of our survival in event of an attack. As times change, policies and procedures need to do so as well to ensure student safety.