Other stories filed under Features
Locking out trouble
A LOOK AT SCHOOL SECURITY
October 17, 2018
Walking through the doors of a school, a student should not have questions regarding their personal security, safety of peers or the possible dangerous behavior of others. However, with an increase in school shootings across the country, and the frequent media buzz, the safety of the country’s youth is on everyone’s minds.
The statistical evidence that school violence and a youth drug epidemic is on the upswing has legitimacy and smaller towns such as Owatonna are not immune. Students at OHS feel uneasy about these issues and are looking to see how school administration will be putting new effects into place for the security of its students. A recent study by EducationDrive.com said, “Students are divided, with 50 percent suggesting they feel completely safe within school parameters, which leaves the other half feeling vulnerable in an environment that they have to attend five out of seven days a week.”
The significant changes in school security continues to get stricter after each school shooting that takes place in the United States. Everytownresearch.org, a gun control advocacy group that tracks gun violence, recently completed new studies saying, “There have been 63 school shooting attacks since 2013.” The recent Parkland, Florida school shooting sparked the need for action rather than talk. Following the tragedy, student activists from Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School created the movement Never Again, with the intention to advocate for stronger gun control. This movement organized marches, walkouts, protests and the social media hashtag #NeverAgain throughout the nation.
Evan Little, a sophomore at OHS, has the same fears as many students regarding the safety of school and the possibility of a shooting. Little said, “It is way too easy for someone to bring a weapon into the building. I think if the new lockdown protocol was implemented in drills, it would help diminish a lot of those fears.” The security of OHS became a top priority over the summer and is something administration is focused on continuing to improve. With that being said, many students may not be well informed of the improvements being made, freshman Sam Knoll said, “I am not aware of any such lockdown procedures. I think the school should do a better job of making security a topic of discussion.” There is no question that students across the country are worried about their own safety and look to the law enforcement, school administration and even politicians to help solve the puzzle.
In Washington D.C., the gun debate is still deadlocked with opposing side’s arguments, but affected individuals from shootings argue that action and change from our government needs to happen immediately to protect students.
Substance abuse in schools
One aspect of school safety that is important to remember involves teen substance use. Most notably on school property and during the school day. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just issued vaping a youth epidemic and said, “In 2017 vape use among teens rose from 1.5 percent to 11.7 percent, categorizing it as an epidemic.” This is something Principal Mr. Mark Randall reminded students on Friday, Sept. 28, during an all-school announcement. Being a minor, vapes are illegal to buy from the typical retailer. However, kids under the age of 18 are still able to purchase them online, making it extraordinarily easy to obtain one.
There are a number of reasons why the abuse of drugs during the day causes serious implications. Beyond the obvious harm to the person using them, this illegal activity impairs judgement; behavior and choices can become erratic. This makes an unsafe environment for students and staff.
While people know drugs alter the function of the brain, research shows that teens in particular, are having an exceptionally hard time dealing with the impact of these substances. Drug use in general creates a hostile environment which comes with its own set of troubles. In fact, a new study by US News said, “Students who reported a positive school environment were 20 percent less likely to use marijuana and 15 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes.” This would imply that restricting the amount of drugs that enter schools would help keep the climate a positive one, and it would reassure students that security is tight. When asked about creating a positive school environment, Principal Randall said, “The goal for all of the staff here at OHS is to create a friendly and positive climate through connecting with students on a more personal level.”
When drugs are being used, it can get pretty uncomfortable for students who do not use them. Walking in on a group of peers vaping or smoking in the bathroom and the complications that might follow, can be a difficult situation to navigate. Unfortunately, statistics show that these instances are not that uncommon. TheRecoveryVillage.com said, “86 percent of high school students know someone who smokes, drinks or does other drugs during the day, and 42 percent of kids have admitted to participating in the use of chewing tobacco, vapes or cigarettes.”
Administration takes action
This year OHS has taken new actions to ensure better security for its students. When discussing safety at OHS, Mr. Randall said, “It’s really important that students understand why we have some of our rules like no hats and backpacks.” There is some difficulties getting the reasoning for the rules across to the students.
Most students at OHS know of the no backpack rule, but many do not know the reasoning for the regulation. The obvious reason is that it can be very easy to hide large weapons, which was a concern after OHS previously received threats on the bathroom walls in 2016. The other reason is for identification purposes. If there was a suspect in the school and the police were looking for them, a student with a backpack and a hood could stick out.
Another rule that been had taken into effect is the “Indian Doors” on School St. remain locked throughout the day. During the school the day, everyone has to enter through the main doors which are monitored by security 24/7. This change was suggested by the Owatonna Police Department to give security more control over who is coming in and out of the school.
Last year, classrooms continued using delegated sign out sheets that must be filled out, and a hall pass that must be taken if a student leaves the room for any reason.
This is to assist teachers with knowing where their students are at all times. OHS has added extra security measures on visitors entering the school. All visitors must scan a form of identification that goes through a database and informs the school if their background is clean for them to be in the school environment. They will then be issued a name badge that they must wear in the building.
When asked about suspicious activity such as wondering the halls, meeting kids in the bathroom or having a hood and backpack, administration explained that OHS has 70 to 80 cameras for surveillance, an increase from last year. They also always have two people on foot making sure nothing looks out of the ordinary and one person looking over security footage at all times.
Officers on foot keep their eyes out for bags left around, as well as propped open doors, something that has been an issue over the years.
OHS Liaison Officer Brady Vaith said, “We have done a pretty good job keeping doors locked, shutting propped opened doors and keeping bags and hats off students, which were our biggest concerns.” Overall, OHS has taken many steps to ensure the safety of their students and will continue to work with local law enforcement to create a positive environment.