Senior Mikal Andrews checks back into building after lunch break on Oct. 17. Students are now required to check into the office after leaving school. (Jamar Hester Jr)
Senior Mikal Andrews checks back into building after lunch break on Oct. 17. Students are now required to check into the office after leaving school.

Jamar Hester Jr

Is school safe – or is that not the case?

Safety measures increased

October 18, 2022

In an effort to prevent incidents and enforce student attendance, Park has implemented stricter rules regarding security. These include an emphasis on hall passes, only using door one for entry and exit and closely monitoring other doorways.

Effects on Park

According to principal LaNisha Paddock, the newly enforced safety precautions are not only to ensure security, but also to make sure students are in the classroom. 

“We were struggling as adults in thinking about what a learning community looks like and (how) to really maximize instruction and the safety and security in the building,” Paddock said. “We have to be very careful in how we hold students to high expectations as far as maximizing instructional time and also who has access to our buildings.” 

For english teacher Lindsey Meyer, events such as the Uvalde shooting in Texas of 2022 have influenced the establishment of these security measures.  

“Last year — at various points of the year — especially what was happening in the world, and specifically I remember the shooting in Texas. It made us all look at the building and really want to make it secure for our students and for our staff,” Meyer said. “I’m feeling this year (that) there have been efforts made to make the building more secure.” 

For school resource officer Maurice Smith, the impact of security relates back to student’s holding one another accountable.

“For me, it’s having all hands on deck. As an example, if you’re a sophomore and juniors are (saying), ‘Hey, don’t do this, don’t do that,’ eventually, you’re going to be like, ‘Okay, if my peers are doing something the right way, I’ll end up following them,” Smith said. “Compared to adults constantly being like ‘Stop doing this, stop doing that. Coming from your peers, it’s different.”

Although Park has adapted in order to protect students, teacher Alexander Polk said that ultimately, gun control nationwide is a far more prevalent issue. 

“It concerns me that money is more important to lawmakers than student safety and well-being. It’s not necessarily anything from last year that has impacted me so much as the continued status quo and not taking things seriously,” Polk said.

Reaction to the changes

According to Smith, long-term safety implications of the new rules outweigh short-term limits on student freedom. 

“We watch the news and we see and hear about school shootings or people sneaking weapons in the schools. When I see that on TV, I know that it is possible and that can happen here,” Smith said. “It does make me concerned for students and staff. I do feel like cracking down on that stuff is beneficial. I know some students don’t like it right now, but in the long run, they’ll definitely appreciate it.”

With these changes comes a new policy regarding restricted building access for Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) students, as they are no longer allowed in the building during open hours. For senior Zoe Gutz, that has been a frustration as well as a challenge. 

“Getting into school is a lot more annoying, (and so is) the fact that I have a study hall fifth period. Even though I don’t have a class, that can get in the way of certain things for me. Let me have an open period, even though I’m PSEO,” Gutz said. “I’m not allowed to be in the school.”

For sophomore Sam Zubia Flores, despite the changes administration is making to combat student absences, she believes the responsibility lies on students.  

“(Administration) wants kids to be in class. A lot of people (are) skipping but it’s their choice at the end of the day. If the person wants to go to school, they’re going to go to school. If they don’t, they don’t,” Zubia Flores said. 

With the high amount of tardies and absences as students came out of lockdown, sophomore Janet Kromah said the community got used to leniency with skipping. 

“I genuinely believe it was because of the absences and the amount of people that were gone last year, almost everyone would skip last year or skip a day and (it) got really bad,” Kromah said.

In addition to this, Polk said students of color were disproportionately impacted by the hallway rules. For Polk, these rules will be beneficial for aiding the education of those targeted. 

“To be 100% honest, the reason that I most appreciate the fact that we are actually changing some stuff is because the people that were in the hallways last year were (a) vast majority (of) students of color,” Polk said. “We were not doing our students of color a service last year because we were letting them do whatever they wanted.”

Going forward

After a month and a half of implementation, Paddock said she believes the new precautions have been beneficial for both staff and students.  

“It’s been going really well. I’ve been pleased, for the most part, with how students have really leaned into it. I know adults are seeing some improvements and are happier with how the hallways look,” Paddock said. “(By) having one entrance and exit during student contact hours when students should be in class, (we’re) able to just monitor better with a few tweaks to what we were supposed to be doing.” 

As the school year progresses, Smith said maintaining these rules throughout the year and staying consistent will bring more success. 

“The biggest thing as far as staff (is having) the same consistency year round. Let’s not implement this plan in August and push it for August, September and then get lazy come November, December. If we had this energy at the start of the year, let’s keep that energy for the entire school year,” Smith said. “That’s the best way to make sure that we’re keeping everyone safe.”

For Gutz, communication on the effects of these policies is important for students to know. 

“(Administration needs to start) being more clear on why they’re putting these into place. It’s been a month of school, if they’re just more transparent (about) how this actually helped. If it hasn’t been, what are they doing to fix it, or are they just going to keep it?” Gutz said.

As Park transitions away from COVID-19 procedures, Meyer said this shift is another step towards a once again connected community. 

“After COVID-(19), we are all getting used to being in a building together again and working together and being in the same space. We had a lot of growing pains with that. This year, it seems (as) teachers (and) admin, we’re trying to be all on the same page so we can all work together because it’s a collective job to keep the building secure,” Meyer said. “It’s trying to be in the halls more, greeting students, being available, being near the doors, doing supervision. That’s all a positive change.”

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