Security measures installed
Is OHS safer?
March 16, 2017
The security updates made in Owatonna schools after passing last fall’s Bond Referendum have been fully implemented at OHS. Their effects are becoming more visible when roaming the high school’s halls. The actual measures taken are fairly imperceptible, so as not to disrupt students’ learning. They can be seen in the little things, such as the discreet security cameras that can be seen gazing at students from above or the secure entrance at the front of the building.
With the reassurance these changes bring, the students at OHS should be able to relax after the distressing bomb threats at the end of last year. “The new security measures were always going to happen,” said OHS Principal Mr. Mark Randall, “The bomb threat wasn’t why we ended up adding more cameras or secure entrances.” Although the bomb threat made the necessity of security upgrades much more apparent, these upgrades were going to happen well before the threat’s occurrence. Are the students feeling safer? “I don’t know, because students probably don’t even notice the upgrades,” said Randall, “But we’re certainly able to provide a higher level of security for the building 24/7.” The improved system allows the security personnel to do their jobs better than ever.
Security cameras, included in the new security changes, can now be seen watching almost every square inch of the building. These cameras have become more common. This lets administration have the ability to look back at who was where at what time. At the security desk, monitors can see all the activity within the building and at its doors. The cameras are causing sign in and sign out sheets to become more obsolete; however, the sheets will still be used until the administration has fully familiarized themselves with the new security measures.
OHS students have had school safety lurking in their minds ever since the bomb threat in May of 2016. This was reflected in the results from the Department of Justice School Climate Survey taken in June of that year, which said 50 percent of OHS students feel unsafe at school. As stated earlier, the money given to OHS for security updates from the recently passed Referendum was asked for before the bomb threat occurred. The latest security updates in the 2016-2017 school year have made a difference in how the student’s feel at OHS. In a recent survey given via Magnet Twitter account, 93.8 percent felt the school was safe or were neutral on the matter. This survey had 59 responses from anonymous OHS students. Majority of students at OHS feel safe, but there are some minor security concerns students still have.
Door Security Measures
One new security measure can be seen at the front doors of OHS. It is the only secure entrance to OHS that is open throughout the school day; all other doors are locked. This guarantees that nobody except students, employees and registered guests can enter the building. At the doors, there is a buzz system active. The new lock system is making sure that doors will not be locking and unlocking at unwanted times.
Another common security issue is students letting their fellow classmates into the school throughout the day. Faculty members often find themselves wondering, what could be done to minimize this, as security can only prevent so much. In the Twitter survey Magnet conducted, 87.5 percent of students have seen a person get let in at an unauthorized door. Most students do not see this as a problem. For the majority of the time, they personally know the student they are letting in. Just recently at Champlin Park High School in Minnesota, there was a security breach. According to a Kare 11 news article, a 42-year old man got into the school and engaged in sexual acts with a student. This article stated that Anoka-Hennepin schools already have high security measures, one being, “in order to get into the school, visitors can only have access through a locked entryway by swiping their ID.” This incident shows that there is still a possibility for a security breach no matter how much security there is in place at a school. This incident in our home state, Minnesota, should make students think about what they are doing before letting a person into the school at an unauthorized door.
Students may have noticed that teachers have been coming out into the hallways more often during passing time, but this is not part of the security updates. “It certainly helps, but security is not the reason for this practice,” Randall said, “There’s some research out there that shows that students feel more welcome when there is a teacher there at the door to greet them when they come into the classroom.” Teachers even notice the effects; students seem to be more engaged at the beginning of class when there is a teacher greeting them at the door. Randall continued, “I wouldn’t call it so much security as that welcoming environment that we create here at the high school, which is an important aspect of what we’re trying to do here.” The reason behind all security at the high school is to keep students safe and create the welcoming environment described by Principal Randall. The administration would not do anything if they did not believe it would be beneficial for the students.
The new policy forbidding backpacks during the school day also cultivates an atmosphere of safety among the students at OHS. Not only that, it has created a spirit of communication during passing time between classes, which teacher Mrs. Polly Shives can attest to. Shives said, “Students aren’t constantly staring down at their phones while moving between classes. They’re actually talking to each other.” She also commented on how much more space there is within rooms, which was affirmed by Mr. John Weide, who said, “From a teacher’s perspective, the reduction of congestion has been one the new backpack policy’s most noticeable benefits.” He continued, “Administration has greatly improved security, but this will always be a hard building to secure.”
One concern is the new security equipment outside of the Indian doors. There is a newly installed box outside of the Indian doors that appears to have the capability to buzz people in. These observations were right. Principal Randall said, “ Yes, it does have the capabilities to buzz in, and students can use it.” But this device is only accessible to certain students. “The intent of this device is for students who are taking PSEO or hybrid classes” said Randall.
This is great news for students who have been waiting for another authorized door in the school. According to the recent survey by Magnet, 95.3 percent of students would like to see another door authorized. Little did students know that with these new security updates, OHS gained another door for students to enter. Senior Chandler Buckhalter has had the opportunity to use this device. Buckhalter said, “The buzz-in system was very convenient for those who have hybrids and or appointments during the day, like myself. It allowed me to walk through the Indian doors since I park in the senior lot.”
With the new security additions and updates, it has been reported that students at OHS feel more safe when coming to school. In the recent survey given out by Magnet, the majority of students do feel safe coming to OHS everyday. It is good to remember that all of the new safety measures and policies are put in place to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for all OHS students. Although some may not agree with certain rules, every rule is put in place for the benefit of the students. The updates to OHS have made a positive impact on the student body atmosphere.