Active Threats and Prevention

Measures Keeping You Safe at School



(courtesy of the Washington Post)

Winston Ho, Hour 5B

 How safe are you at school? This Thursday, October 20th of 2022, a threat was detected at Stevens Point Area Senior High which was later confirmed to be a hoax by the brave members of the Stevens Point police team. However, this has caused citizens of the district to reconsider how safe their child is and in turn, make students reconsider how safe they really are at school. These concerns are valid as for the past 20 years, school shootings were rampant, according the the National Center for Education Statistic (NCES), the casualty number related to violent in education were between 11 to 93, higher than the casualty of education related suicide and homicides, and while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated in their active shooter response booklet that “in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims,” schools are still usually targets of these violent attacks to to the abundant and viability of the target seeing that their objective is to cause as much harm as possible.

 News about violence in schools run rampant, for that it gains a lot of attractions due to it being a big and heavy topic, for that the loss of what is a portion of the  next generation of adults that are going to do good and maintain the world we are living at have been wiped out without a chance to prove themselves to the world. This news hits the ear of the current and upcoming set of parents, leading them to want and protect their precious children at all costs, making it so the money that they make, they throw a sizable amount of it to the school board in order to keep their children safe. An example of this is a school that is built in Fruitport, western Michigan that is aimed to deter violence, a report from The Detroit News reveals that inside the $48 million school that spans over 231,700 square feet are multiple wings of walls that extend out and function as cover for 30 students. This school is the work of concerned parents funding the school district to help keep their child safe. However, at SPASH, the security measures seem minimal – outside of a huge amount of doors, a couple of ID readers and cameras there really seemed to be nothing else protecting the SPASH student from people who want to bring harm to them.

(An image of presumably the main entrance to the new Fruitport high school, courtesy of Fruitport Area News)

 However, despite what perceptions about the security at school tells you, the security at SPASH is more complex than to meet the eye. A talk with Mr. Gostomski, the current assistant principal at SPASH tasked with all things from schedules to student wellness revealed that our current measure of keeping people safe is carefully considered and researched extensively throughout. “Doors are the best way to prevent violence,” said Mr. Gostomski. “The ‘I Love You Guys’ foundation have done extensive research and found out that locked doors are the best way to prevent violence.” (quote is subject to change) This is further proven by the final report of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission (SHAC) that were presented to Governor Malloy of Connecticut during the 6th of March, 2015, section 6.x of the final report advised that design opportunities should be reviewed to create interior safe havens with forced entry resistant doors. The door as SPASH may look plain, however they are extremely resistant and can even stand up to horseplay from mischievous students. 

(SPASH front entrance before locking time at 7:30 A.M.)

 These doors are locked between 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM to ensure student safety. Students who wish to enter the school during the locked period are not out of luck because ID scanners are present at every entrance so that students can still enter during this period. Teachers are not immune to these ID scanners, for that another specialized type of scanner is also set up in conjunction with their different ID card. But with these ID scanners comes a risk of a door may be left open because a student may have wanted to be a good samaritan and let an extra student and/or staff in, so the school board have been extensively advising both students and staff to not proc open the door to let others in. It is not really a big deal that other students can’t get in but it’s more for the goods of others if the doors are not open, because that student may bring in a threat, may be a threat themself or is a threat who is trying to get in. 

(ID scanners present in between the exterior and interior of the eastern entrance, with faculty access at every door and student access at select doors)

 Interior doors are not to be neglected, however, for that they are near indestructible, and are a barrier that blocks out attackers trying to get in. These doors stalls attackers, “about ninety percent of the [school shooting cases] are over in five to ten minutes.” said Mr. Gostomski, “In the past, the gunman who was in different buildings, will move on to a different area if there is a locked door.” So chances are if this is an ordinary person who wants to cause harm in the fastest way possible, a lock door in your classroom almost guarantees you being alive to see another day. These doors should not be underestimated, the denial of area access is the deciding factor that determines if lives are saved or lost.

(heavy and reinforced doors, capable of having more than a heavy beating applied to them)

 Surveillance in forms of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) or video surveillance are also deployed to help detect threats outside, which allows for warnings and to disperse the threat before they reach school grounds. But in case of attackers that have achieved the impossible and reached to the interior of the school, there are interior CCTV and security patrols that help to identify active attackers, in which the information gained is used to assist first responders. The active cameras inside the school and outside the doors are being constantly monitored from the front desk, the desk near the cafeteria and the security office. These surveillance system are highly recommended according to the interior sub section of section 6 of the SHAC final report stating that “consider electronic surveillance in lobbies, corridors, hallways, large assembly areas, stairwells or other areas” in 6.9 and “if video surveillance systems are utilized, the surveillance system shall be available for viewing from a central location” in 6.8. Seeing is part of the solution, being able to know what is happening, where it is happening and who is doing it helps tremendously in the identification and elimination of the threat(s).

(An image of SPASH’s eastern front entrance before locking times, notice the security cameras being used conjunction to the reinforced doors)

 Teachers have also been drilled on what to do during a threat or emergency. A leaked, classified slideshow containing instructions on what to do during an emergency suggested that over the summer, teachers have been thoroughly drilled on the five actions that also appear on posters and are placed conveniently throughout the school, mostly near the door of the classroom or the most eye-catching place possible. According to Mr. Gostomski who later accredited the I Love You Guys foundation, these specific sets of instructions are using language that are easy for teachers and students to understand, follow and advise on what to do when one of these five keywords are used. This is also better than creating a full set of instructions due to these scenarios being inconsistent and could change at any time, “What if we are in a lockdown and the fire alarm goes off?” Said Mr. Gostomski “A lot of the school shootings involve fire alarms being pulled to get everyone to leave.” Everything is easily subjected to change, including future attackers who could use the shortcomings of the last attack to plan a better attack on the student populus. By training teachers to adapt to the situation and giving an idea of what to do during certain scenarios, this creates a better system to help ensure the lives and safety of students against any threats possible.

(The standard protocol poster situated in every classroom, along with a comedic image of our CEO)

 In case of an active threat in the area, a warning will be sent throughout the district, and first responders will be sent, even if there is no threat. A recent false threat has proven this, even if it were just a swatting call according to the official website of the City of Stevens Point, “Po. Co. Dispatch center received a call saying that there was an active shooter inside SPASH. Officers responded quickly and determined that the information was false and there was no threat.” This shows the complexity of our school security, even if the threat was false ,the measures are still going to be applied throughout the district, armed officers are still going to be dispatched at all costs to ensure student safety. Not only that, the emergency protocols are seen going into effect, “We went to the swimming pools,” confirmed Mrs. Sarah, a student at SPASH and a fellow journalism student. “We were taken outside, far west out by the grass field past the parking lot,” said Xavier, another SPASH student and fellow student journalist. This showcased two of our emergency measures, as Sarah’s supervisor chose lockdown as the most effective measure while Xavier’s chose to evacuate, which also shows teachers ability to adapt to the current situation while using critical thinking to choose the best solution for the current situation from their training.

(A photo of police responders arriving at SPASH’s northern entrance, courtesy of the Metro Wire , a news station situated in Stevens Point)

 For a school this big and a subject this heavy, surely only a minor amount of what seems like minor security measures will provoke some thoughts about how really safe you are at school. Rest assured, these solutions are carefully researched and thought about. “It’s about the balance of convenience and security.” Said Mr. Gostomski when asked about the much more dire and draconian measures that we can have “One of the topics that always comes up is backpacks, should we allow backpacks?” Metal detectors and the allowance of backpacks have been discussed throughout but it is a big matter of student convenience over security. Now, while metal detectors, banning or mandatory searches for backpacks may be ensuring absolute safety in school, these cause a massive inconvenience for students and staff to manage. Metal detectors and backpack searches can cause the starting time to extend to at least a few hours to extend to at least 1600 students and banning backpacks all along just makes it harder to traverse around the school and in turn could cause more safety issues than it would solve. Some may think that equipping, training and drilling teachers on using a firearm is a possible solution, this will just cause a misallocation of resources due to teachers jobs being that they teach, anything other than emergency drillings will just distract them from their primary purpose, a later talk with Mr. Gostomski also reveals that he thinks that our police forces are massively underestimated on how much training they receive with their service firearms. So in multiple cases, the most obvious solution is not always a solution, there are always drawbacks to a solution, it is always best to consider the gains and the loss while comparing them to come up with the best possible solution.

 Despite all of these solutions that are placed on the table to ensure absolute safety and comfortability of learning, the future members of society, currently the citizens of the panther nation, have a mixed idea on how safe they are. “I feel meh about the safety here,” said Mr. Juno “we are not like PJ Jacobs where the police are right next to us. However we are a big school and have more people but that makes us a bigger target.” Mrs. Lecapitaine thinks that she is unsafe, and states that the teachers are not paying enough attention to the students they are currently being assigned to. While Mr. Xavier opines that our security is pretty safe, especially about ID scanners that let people know who is coming in, adding a completely different perspective for the panther nation. Whatever you may think, always consider your teachers, your police and the design details of the building itself, as they will always work towards keeping your life and conversely, your future safe.