With the implementation of teacher safety training, more frequent lockdown drills and a campus safety evaluation, it’s clear that school safety is becoming a bigger concern at Country Day.
In the wake of recent school shootings, other schools in the Sacramento area have also been amping up security, instituting new policies where all campus and classroom doors remain locked at all times.
“Keeping classroom doors locked is a procedure that I learned about from Homeland Security, FBI and regional law enforcement,” Gerry Lane, director of campus safety at Jesuit High School, said.
“The other subtle changes and suggestions we’ve instituted are actions that have been recommended to us by school safety professionals for mitigating potential on-campus assailant incidents.”
Past on-campus shooting incidents around the country have been the main cause for these new features, according to Lane.
“The lessons learned from Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland and others have been very difficult,” Lane said. “But they have also shown us what we need to be aware of for our students, staff and administrators safety across the country.”
With this added security also comes a need for more secrecy on school security matters, according to Lane.
“I would not want safety procedures to be shared in public, as one of the lessons of Parkland is that assailants have begun to use school safety measures to exploit their reprehensible agenda,” Lane said.
The Parkland shooter was an expelled student, meaning he would’ve had access to any of the school’s previous public security policy, according to a CNN article on the event.
“Knowing how a school will respond to incidents allows assailants to plan how to defeat these measures and subsequently cause more damage or injury,” Lane said.
And Lane wasn’t the only one to share this concern.
St. Francis High School, which also started locking all campus and classroom doors at all times, refused to comment when asked about its security.
“We do not openly discuss security information outside of our school community,” Cynthia Cost, dean of students at St. Francis, said.
The email, though it contained no security information, was even followed by a confidentiality notice.
However, Roya Pahlavan, a former Country Day student and current senior at St. Francis, was willing to share some reactions about the new policy.
“During the first day of school, our teachers told us about the policy,” Pahlavan said.
Aside from that announcement, Pahlavan said the students weren’t told anything else other than a few joking complaints from teachers.
“Originally, I thought it was a bit over the top, but it’s just become a part of my everyday routine,” Pahlavan said.
“It’s not too inconvenient for me, so I really don’t mind it much.”
Head of school Lee Thomsen also said he was wary of sharing Country Day’s security information with the students and public.
“(Knowledge Saves Lives, a group specializing in campus safety training,) recommended that faculty and staff don’t train students in procedures we learned,” he said.
“The majority of violent actors come from within the community, whether a student or a disgruntled employee.”
This is why Thomsen and the admin are keeping safety discussions internal until new policies have been chosen to be implemented.
“(Knowledge Saves Lives) also did a complete audit of campus security,” Thomsen said. “They gave us some recommendations, and one of the recommendations was to lock every classroom door from the outside.”
However, not all students agree with Thomsen about keeping information completely confidential.
“I think the chance that we have a school shooter is relatively low,” sophomore Avinash Krishna said.
“With an open campus, if there is a shooter, he probably won’t even be from the school, so it’s more important the students know what to do.”
But senior Josh Friedman understood the nuances of the decision.
“Students probably shouldn’t know because chances are that during a school shooting situation, one of us would be the shooter,” Friedman said.
“But then again, it’s risky because what if the shooter isn’t the student? Maybe it’s an alumnus; then we probably should be able to know.”
Friedman also said having all the responsibility on the teacher can lead to dangerous situations if the teacher forgets or is unreliable.
“Admittedly, the chance that the shooter isn’t a student and that a teacher doesn’t know what they’re doing is pretty slim,” Friedman said.
Thomsen and the administrative team are waiting to make any announcements until they’ve made a decision on which new security features to implement.
“I think there is a happy medium when it comes to how much information to share with your students,” Thomsen said.
—By Mehdi Lacombe