As a child, you are told that there is no place safer than school. A haven where administrators and teachers work to create a comfortable setting to foster the social, emotional, and intellectual development of students is now deemed a threatening environment.
School shootings have become more prevalent since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado where 12 students and one teacher were killed by two students. In 2018, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., had schools across the country ramping up security.
In Hewlett-Woodmere schools, the Parkland shooting was a wake-up call to make needed security changes. Parkland and Hewlett-Woodmere are very similar communities in terms of socio-economic levels and demographics. Many Hewlett High students were connected to Parkland in some way — knowing someone or knowing a friend of a friend attending Stoneman Douglas High.
After the shooting, Hewlett High School students organized a walk out on the same day as a national walk out. On the football field there were speeches in remembrance of those killed in Parkland and to call for change regarding security and sensible gun laws. The Parkland shooting made it clear to Hewlett students that no school, town or community is safe from tragic events, no matter how affluent or tightly knit the community is.
Hewlett High students took the initiative last year to work with administration to implement added security measures. Students and staff are required to have an ID card on their person at all times. While staff were required to wear identification before, the policy was not strictly enforced.
Students must scan their ID to unlock two separate doors to enter the building at both the main entrance on Everit Avenue and the Commons entrance on East Rockaway Road. Visitors must scan their ID, such as a driver’s license, to enter the building.
The identification scan for visitors has been moved outside the school’s main doors, adding an additional level of protection by preventing visitors from being received at the security booth. Visitors had been allowed entry into the main vestibule of the school before having to show any ID as that is where the security desk and ID scan were located.
At first, many students were extremely resistant to the changes. They were not able to understand that the precautions were being taken for their safety. Many saw the security measures as an inconvenience. Scanning in an ID card and needing to wear it around their neck was simply a nuisance with no purpose.
“How is wearing a lanyard going to stop a school shooter?” they questioned. “If someone really wants to get into the school, they can.” The student resistance has subsided. Change does not come easily. Administration threatened disciplinary measures such as detention.
Students now seem to respect the system; it has become second nature to scan in an ID rather than complain. It is easier to put our trust in the administration and security staff that worked tirelessly to perfect the system, and students now understand it’s for their protection.
The new security measures have subconsciously made me feel so much safer. After Parkland, I feared coming to school. I was looking around in my classes, helplessly wondering if my community would be the next tragedy. It’s near impossible to predict when mass shootings will occur, but any preventive measures provide a sense of security and safety among students.