Consider the Student Perspective in School Security

By Jake Glacer

A little more than a year ago, on February 14, 2018, I experienced a mass shooting firsthand inside room 1213 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since then, new security measures have been put in place at my high school, but from a student’s perspective, there is a long way to go. The lesson is not necessarily that Stoneman Douglas needs to do a better job of securing its campus (it does), but also, that all schools need to listen to student input and feedback when implementing school safety plans.

This is important because what is intended is not always the reality.

At Stoneman Douglas, nothing has really changed. When we started the school year, there were 18 security guards, including school police officers and campus monitors. One of their tasks is to check everyone’s student or teacher ID card at one of several entrances before they are allowed inside. It seems like a good idea, but the reality is that IDs are not always checked and this lackluster approach leaves us with many vulnerabilities and a false sense of security.

When I drive into school, myself and everyone in my car must show a guard our IDs. There have been many times when I drove past guards who seemed uninterested in whether we were actually students who belonged at the school. I have forgotten my ID from time to time, and the guard always lets me through the gate to get a new one from the front office. What is the purpose of having the guard checking IDs if I can get into the parking lot without an ID?

The entrance I use to get into school has lately been better guarded, as they placed a new campus monitor who looks at each and every individual’s ID. But this wasn’t always the case, and it’s not the case elsewhere on the campus. At an event after school, for example, we needed our IDs to get through the nearest gate. I was with three friends, and two of them did not have their IDs. My friend and I who did walked in, went to another entrance that was completely unguarded and unlocked it to let our two friends in.

Another major problem that still has not been addressed is checking backpacks. Stoneman Douglas implemented clear backpacks for a short period after the shooting, and it came with a lot of backlash from students and parents. Over the last year, friends and I have been able to walk past guards at entrances while carrying large bags that are supposed to be inspected. In one example, my friend was bringing in a large bag of supplies for a project. We both walked right into school and past two guards who didn’t say a word.

When the shooting happened in 2018, my school had no protocol in place for such an event. It made a chaotic event even more chaotic. Now there are designated safe corners in all of the classrooms, and students know where to go in an emergency. But at the same time, in the new portable classroom buildings, there is nowhere to hide. There is a window on each side, one of them being big enough to view the entire classroom from outside. Sitting in one of these classrooms, I question every single day (and so do the teachers) why nothing has been done to make these new classrooms safer.

This kind of activity has been going on ever since February 14. There are more people around the school but not much more security. It seems to me this is more of a human error than a security error. And this is the main concern I have with the future development of school security.

In a school that has experienced a mass shooting, you would think that security would be much more important, more thought through and more consistently applied. So how much more lax is security at schools that have not experienced mass violence? And more troubling, are schools even aware whether their school safety measures are actually being implemented?

Deciding how to secure a school campus is only the first step in making a school safer. The next step is ensuring those security measures are actually being used. That takes monitoring and feedback over time, and all schools need to proactively and regularly talk with the people most affected by school security: the students and teachers.

Jake Glacer is a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.