Minimizing mistakes: Students, staff responsible for safety of school

Monday, March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Our number one priority, on a daily basis, is to make sure our students are as safe as possible,” principal Lamond Dean said. “So there is a response [plan for] anything that there may be a concern [about].”

Most people like to believe that students are fairly safe at school everyday, and that’s the goal of Dean as well as the rest of the staff: safety. However, with recent tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting, everyone has a reason to begin to doubt their safety on a day-to-day basis. School, a seemingly innocent institution, is an easy target for those with malicious motives. To believe that students trying to learn can be threatened by an outside source can be a troubling thought, which is why schools have procedures in place to minimize outside threats as much as possible.

“We have safety and security plans for really just about anything that we can think of that would be a danger to the students or the staff, or the physical being of the school,” assistant principal Blake Allen said. “It’s not secret information, this is all public stuff that we’re trying to encourage everybody to be aware of.”

If a threat is imposed on the school, there are a variety of different people assigned to take care of it, as well as to protect students and staff.

“Obviously if there’s a threat of [an intruder] that is within the campus, we do different things,” Dean said. “We have our administrators, our monitors, [and] our law enforcement [officers] that are here that try to address the situation as quickly as possible [and to] remove the eminent threat from the rest of the students.”

Recent school violence has created significant fear, but it can also serve as a reminder to everyone in the school as to why emergency procedures are practiced.

“The school shootings that have happened recently are terrifying, [they’re] really tragedies and it’s just awful that we live with elements in our society that are capable of doing pretty heinous things,” Allen said. “We talked about that in a faculty meeting right after the Newtown, Connecticut incident, where I told the faculty ‘This is why we do the drills. Let’s not ever forget the reason we do a lockdown drill.’”

As far as the staff at Bryan High, safety procedures are instilled in each faculty member’s mind in order to make everyone as prepared as possible for a serious threat to the school.

“Administratively, we meet weekly to discuss issues or concerns on our campus. We talk about things [and] try to be proactive,” Dean said. “In the time of an emergency, everyone goes back to what they feel is more natural – taking care of themselves – but we want to make sure that our job is to take care of everybody that is here.”

Teachers and faculty take the safety of the school very seriously, and they attend a training session with Allen annually. In addition to this training, staff members are given reminders of procedures in the form of an emergency operations manual, a checklist on their ID card, an alphabetically arranged accident checklist, and a quick-reference page to deal with major emergencies that is kept in the classroom and in the employee handbook.

“I tell the teachers that we need to act like the military does, and we train like we fight so that we fight like we train,” Allen said. “And when it comes time to implement one of those drills, we’re just going to do it. It’s going to be muscle memory. We’re just going to act and do it, we’re not going to lose our minds because now we’re going into lockdown for real.”

While many students may not see a need for monthly drills, there are valid reasons behind taking time out of class to practice them. When the people on campus are prepared, the severity of the threat is reduced.

“The reason we do [drills] is so that we minimize the mistakes we make to save the maximum number of lives possible,” Allen said. “Because the bottom line is, we’re pretty exposed as a campus. We have to be available to the public, which means anybody can walk in, but we also have a job to secure ourselves against anybody that’s going to do pretty evil stuff, which means stealth is our weapon.

“When we get in a situation where there’s somebody on campus to do harm to [our students], the best thing we can do is hide. That’s why we do what we do. We turn out the lights, we make every classroom look the same so that it’s not really obvious where kids are, and we try to hide [students] so that there’s no injury.”

Aside from the drills that are set in place, the administration at Bryan High believes that each individual should try, on a daily basis, to make the campus as safe from threats as possible.

“Any time that there is something that happens that’s a tragedy, such as [the] most recent school shootings, we [start] looking at ourselves,” Dean said. “We’re in a process of doing a safety audit on our campus to look at trying to be proactive, looking at things that we can do to provide a more safe surrounding for our students, internally or externally.”

Whether or not these procedures and safety drills will be carried out, and carried out efficiently, is not only up to the school administrators, but everyone in the building. Even the smallest of acts by any person on campus, from a student to the principal, can prevent a catastrophe from occurring.

“It doesn’t stop with the teachers, and it doesn’t stop with the administrators. Students have a responsibility too,” Allen said. “Noticing things that are out of place, or telling us that something’s wrong. If we add that many more eyes [for] awareness, then we become that much more effective at keeping each other safe, and we’re protecting all of us at the same time.”

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