Not in My School
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Mar 01, 2014
Back in the day, students were taught how to
protect themselves from fire and the unimaginable
nuclear attack. I remember, with fondness,
the fire drills that would come during class where
we would follow the teacher’s lead to a secure place
outside, which was a safe distance from the classroom.
We also were taught how to duck and cover beneath
our desks, and how to follow single file to a safe
room in case of natural disaster.
For today’s students, however, it is a matter of selfpreservation.
The attacks come from fellow students,
even friends. The new drill is a lockdown. Here’s how
it works: At the very thought of a threat, teachers are
instructed to turn off the lights in their classrooms,
lock the door and usher students into corners or closets.
The police are called, while students wait until an
“all clear” signal is given.
School administrators nationwide have worked
with police departments to create detailed plans to secure
schools, an effort that took on increasing meaning
after the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Of the memories of my schools days, a fire alarm
was never taken seriously, although we complied. I
remember one fire alarm during an Algebra II class.
Yes, we filed outside the classroom, but it seemed to
be more of an annoyance than a protective measure.
Even today’s lockdowns are somewhat desensitizing
students to the alarm of a shooter or threat.
Bombarded with a litany of alarm sounds seems to
do that. The lockdowns are part of numerous new security
measures that schools have deployed over the
last decade, including the use of CCTV, and today,
high-definition and megapixel cameras.
Most states have passed legislation that require
schools to have safety plans in place, so some schools
have doors that lock automatically, with police officers
inside the building. At other schools, a security drill
may consist of the principal making an announcement
whereupon students sit in darkened classrooms. Yet,
other schools will act out fake shooting scenarios with
the police department stalking through the halls like
a gunman and testing doors to see if they are locked.
School violence is not new, though January 2014
seems to have been particularly violent:
- On Jan. 9, a 17-year-old high school student was
wounded when a 16-year-old classmate allegedly
shot him outside of Liberty Technology Magnet
High School in Jackson, Tenn.
- On Jan. 13, a 14-year-old freshman at Hillhouse
High School in New Haven, Conn., was shot twice
after a basketball game at this school. The shooter
was not immediately apprehended, but days later a
17-year-old turned himself in.
- On Jan. 14, two students were shot at a Roswell,
New Mexico middle school. The gunman was a
12-year-old male who opened fire in this school
gym, until a staff member at the school talked him
into putting down his weapon.
- On Jan. 17, a 17-year-old student at a Philadelphia
charter school opened fire and injured two of his
classmates. The suspect will be charged as an adult.
Two other teens were brought in for questioning in
connection to this incident, but were later cleared.
- Also on Jan. 17, an Albany High School student
was shot near campus. This Friday shooting sent
the Georgia school into lockdown.
And, there are six other crimes just like these during
this month, as well.
Believe it or not, school violence started as long
ago as the 1760s. The earliest known U.S. shooting to
happen on school property was the Pontiac’s Rebellion
school massacre on July 26, 1764, where four Lenape
American Indians entered the schoolhouse near
present-day Greencastle, Pa., shot and killed schoolmaster
Enoch Brown, and killed nine or 10 children.
Only three children survived.
Then, on Nov. 2, 1853, in Louisville, Ky., student
Matthew Ward bought a pistol that morning, went
to school and killed the schoolmaster, Mr. Butler, as
revenge for what Ward thought was excessive punishment
to his brother the day before. Ward was acquitted.
Neither of these historical examples proves that violence
is accepted today, but they do serve to show that
security measures should have always been in place.
In December 2013, when an 18-year-old student
walked into his high school and fatally shot a fellow
student in the head, students huddled in their
classrooms behind locked doors, as police swept the
hallways searching for the suspect. Classrooms were
evacuated one by one, and students were permitted to
leave with hands over their heads onto fields outside
the school. All of this according to a security plan put
in place by school officials.
I suppose it all comes down to budget allocations
by school boards and districts to protect students,
teachers and staff. When you get right down to it,
though, school is the last place violence should ever
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Security Today.