Florida Shooting Raises Campus Safety Concerns

17 high school students were killed at the hands of a 19-year-old shooter on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the latest in a long and tragic history of mass shootings on school campuses in the United States.

In a post-Columbine world, 150,000 students across the United States have experienced a school shooting according to Slate. This staggering statistic means that fear for one’s life can be nearly as prevalent at school as test anxiety or fear of a dropping grade point average.

Students hold frank discussions in class with teachers about the procedure when (no longer if) an active shooter comes and how to ensure survival. Do we run from raining bullets? Barricade the door? Text our loved ones goodbye? The possibility that we may be unsafe when we set foot on campus each morning is a hard— but necessary —pill to swallow for students.

There exists a chink in the armor of our country as the right to bear arms has evolved into the right to take lives. And while our nation grapples with this issue at a federal level, we return to school each day with a vein of fear pulsing through campus. In the aftermath of the most recent attack, students are again asking: how they can ensure their daily survival in the wake of so much uncertainty?

There is no simple answer. As long as the 2nd amendment hangs over our heads, we must be diligent, have an escape plan. To combat our uncertainty we must think rationally in a wholly irrational moment.

Associate Principal Jon Drury confirmed that student safety is a topic at the forefront of administrative attention given last month’s tragedy in Parkland, Florida.

“We have a campus-wide safety plan in place. With administration, in response to the recent Florida shooting, we’re going around and talking to classes. We’ve been going to every class to make sure we get every student. We’ve been talking about the situation where, let’s say if we have an active shooter, about the run, hide, fight strategy,” said Drury. He recognizes that the lack of one, fool-proof shooting response may make many students “anxious.”

“There are many variables that come into play,” explained Drury. “I can’t tell everyone ‘You need to run’ or ‘You need to go hide’ or ‘You need to possibly fight.'”

Security cameras around campus –atop buildings, atop metal poles, around corners– perch like vigilant birds. The vigilance they promise, however, becomes slightly less convincing when one notes the cobwebs and rust with which many of them are covered.

These unkempt cameras, like the recent Parkland shooting, raise an important campus question.

Are we really safe?

While multiple plans do exist for responding to a shooting situation, students should not confuse the variable nature of a response with the lack of one. According to Drury, Campolindo has a clear Lock Down policy for such such situations. Students’ 1st resort should be to run away from campus to “get safe.” If running is not possible, hiding, followed by fighting in self-defense are the next options.

In the case of running from campus, students should congregate at the designated meeting spots, Rheem Valley Shopping Center and Refugee Community Church on Moraga Road.

“If we’re in class, we’re gonna call a secure campus and go into a Lock Down. Classes are pulling the lock blocks. You’re gonna barricade your doors. You’re gonna put textbooks up against yourselves. Anything that you can do to make sure that you’re safe,” said Drury.

Drury also explained that staff receives yearly training on response to shooting situations and that staff will meet again this March in light of Parkland.

In the event of what administration refers to as a “secure campus situation,” instinctual reactions can be physically, if not emotionally conflicting.

Missy Dodds, a former teacher at Red Lake Senior High School in northern Minnesota, survived a school shooting incident in 2005. 13 years ago, “secure campus” procedure looked very different. “This was back in the day when you locked your door, turned out the lights, and scooted over to the wall,” she said. Yet strictly followed protocol was not enough to ensure student safety.

“He shot the lock, and it melted,” Dodds recounted. “Next to my door, there was a panel of glass that he literally walked through. And that’s how he got in. We were all lined up. And he literally just went down the row. We were sitting ducks.”

Five of her students were killed.

The administration encourages students to speak up if they detect warning signs in the emotional states of their peers. “See somebody, say something,” said Drury, advising students who observe the signs of a possible threat to notify teachers or other campus authorities.

While security cameras are operated 24 hours a day, Campus Supervisor Sue Frederich noted the need for additional cameras in more strategic locations; history teacher Dino Petrocco suggested the addition of a 2nd campus supervisor position in order to provide better campus security.

In spite of the recent event in Florida and the string of other campus violence across the country that preceded it, Petrocco pointed out that Campolindo is a relatively safe environment for students and staff. “One of the obvious upsides of going to a school like Campolindo is that there are very few times in your Campolindo career when you probably have felt unsafe. There aren’t any fights, as far as I know. In terms of physically feeling unsafe, that’s not really an issue,” said Petrocco.