New Policies Reflect Growing Concern for School Safety

Mr. Thompson has had extensive experience working for the Howard County Police force, both as a typical officer and as a School Resource Officer. Six months after retiring from his position as an officer, Mr. Thompson was offered the job as Wilde Lake High School’s Head of Security.  “My general responsibilities are looking after the security of the building, children, and staff,” said Mr. Thompson.
“My general responsibilities are looking after the security of the building, children, and staff,” said Mr. Thompson.

This year the administration has introduced and reinforced a series of safety procedures designed to secure student safety in the building.

A new security system, an increased number of teachers stationed in the hallway, and a ban on entering the school through the side doors are just a few of the changes Wilde Lake students have observed lately.

According to school psychologist Mr. Channel, not only has the school board created entirely new safety precautions, but they have also begun to enforce the old ones.
“The new policies include monitoring the side doors to prevent entry, requiring visitors to sign in at the Main Office, mandating teachers to be at watch stations during the day, as well as the installment of a new video surveillance system,” said Mr. Channel.

On March 13, the students huddled up under their desks during a code red lockdown drill. The scene resembled that of a Cold War instructional video.
Instances of violence appear to have increased in the media. For example, on December 14, 2012 there was a fatal school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Less than two months later a gunman came onto the Lone Star Community College campus in Texas and fired at multiple students.

The problem of safety in schools hit home on February 4, 2013 when a Wilde Lake High School student was sexually assaulted during school hours.

Most recently, four Oakland Mills students were charged with robbery and attempted murder of a taxi cab driver off of school property.

The reactions to these events come in many different forms. Students feel a range of emotions from fear and uncertainty to complete calmness and lack of anxiety.

The Need for Change

For students like Senior Jackie Davis, these incidents demonstrate an urgent need for change. “I think we absolutely need more security, especially near the main entrance,” said Davis. “I don’t think it would be too much to have security guards with guns standing near the door. Why take the risk?”

Social Studies teacher Ms. Lipira also sees increased security as prevention rather than an annoyance. “After the incident in our own school, administration became much more insistent on upholding safety policies . . . Students also are being reminded more often about the rules, like the ban on entering the school through the side doors. These policies aren’t made to make the school seem unreasonable, just safe,” said Ms. Lipira.

To ease concerns, students will need to get used to more teachers in the hall and an increased presence of adults, something Ms. Platou, teacher of World History, believes should be taken seriously.

“It’s not necessarily that there are new policies, but rather the old ones are being enforced more severely. We had all the necessary rules to keep the school safe, they were just not being taken seriously,” said Ms. Platou.

Students Speak Up

Despite media violence, many students feel Wilde Lake has always provided a safe environment. Senior Alexa Kempner does not feel threatened after the recent tragedies in Connecticut and Texas. She believes that the presence of police officers is a strong deterrent against an attack.

“Unless there were multiple shootings at one school,” said Kempner, “I would still attend an institution such as Lonestar College or Kent State University, both of which have experienced an on-campus shooting.”

However, Sophomore Abby Burmester feels nervous coming to school after the incidents at Sandy Hook Elementary and Lonestar College.

“I didn’t realize how big of an issue school shootings were until now,” said Burmester. “Their frequency is what makes me feel scared.”

Safety, Ensured

Wilde Lake’s head of security, Mr. Thompson, sees the students as part of the solution
“Students have to accept the mindset that it is everybody’s responsibility to keep the schools safe,” says Mr. Thompson. “This idea that there is nothing to worry about with an officer walking the halls is unreasonable. If a student sees something it is their duty to report it.”

For students, this means complying to the school’s stricter policies. It is a sacrifice with the payoff of safety.

Mixed reactions to the outbreak of school violence are not exclusive to Wilde Lake. As the debate extends to Congress in the form of gun control discussions, Ms. Platou calls for immediate action locally and nationally.

“These incidents are cause for a national conversation,” said Ms. Platou. “It is our job as a school to ensure safety for all students.”