“Early dismissal” by Emma Boersma

EDITORIAL: Tell students about safety procedures – it’s worth the risk

While efforts from the faculty to prepare Country Day for a lockdown are worthwhile, the same students whom faculty is trying to protect are left in the dark about the changes made to our emergency procedure.

Before school began in August, Country Day’s faculty participated in school-wide training, receiving instruction on how to act in the case of a school shooting or another violent act in a school setting.

On Aug. 24, just a few days before school started, Knowledge Saves Lives (an organization that trains schools on emergency procedures) visited to explain how to keep students safe until first responders arrive. A new emergency plan is currently under evaluation, and last spring, the school had its first lockdown drill in three years.

But, as students, we still don’t know what to do when a school shooting occurs. What if we’re outside or in a restroom? What if we can’t find a staff member for help? 

And because the lockdown drill has occurred only once in the past three years (in 2017), students who participated in it know the safety protocol for only the one classroom they were locked down in and not the rest of the campus.

The chance of them being in that same classroom during a shooting is very minimal; students need to know where to hide on campus at all times.

Furthermore, we need to be aware of where safety materials – like fire extinguishers or objects to ward off attackers – are and how they can be used. If there is an active shooter threat, having to read a safety pamphlet would be a waste of time. 

However, we understand that the administration might be hesitant about revealing security policies to students. 

Over the past year, The Washington Post has studied gun violence during school hours since the 1999 Columbine High massacre (using data from the U.S. Education Department, including the Common Core of Data and the Private School Universe Survey).  

According to the Post, 7 in 10 school shooters are under the age of 18, and the median age of school shooters is 16. 

In total, 123 school shooters – about 56.7 percent – were old enough to be in high school. 

So, yes, there is a risk of students knowing about procedures and exploiting that knowledge when shooting up schools. 

But currently, students don’t know what to do during school shootings, which is dangerous –  especially if they aren’t in a classroom. And in the case of an emergency, teachers are wasting valuable time by having to explain the most basic procedures to students. 

And while such emergencies are rare, they still happen frequently enough that we should be as prepared as possible 

There was even an unofficial lockdown on Sept. 7 due to a robbery at Loehmann’s Plaza. 

Plus, teachers and admin don’t have to reveal everything. They can even change lockdown drills to have a slightly different procedure each time so that potential student shooters won’t know where people hide. 

And since students are such a large percentage of school shooters, we can also use students’ knowledge to our advantage by educating high schoolers on not just what to do during a school shooting, but also how to prevent one. 

Instead of two classes on sex ed and drugs, why not replace one with a class on how to recognize signs of a peer showing signs of deteriorating mental health or violent tendencies? 

The issue is just as relevant as drug addiction. This year’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use and attitudes stated that 9.4 percent of 10th graders said they used illicit drugs other than marijuana. 

To compare, the National Mental Health Institute reported that 15.25 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds said that they had at least one major (longer than two weeks) depressive episode.

And if the administration wants to educate students on sex ed and drugs all four years, the life skills class’s curriculum can be expanded to include mental-health education instead. 

Another option would be to have students learn about self-defense, like seniors did last year during their senior seminars, so that teachers aren’t the only ones responsible for defending others.

Finally, educating students about the measures taken to protect them might decrease the level of unease students and parents may currently have about the policy. 

In the end, it’s worth the risk to protect the community. 

Originally published in the Sept. 18 edition of the Octagon. 

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