Updated campus security measures in effect at CHS

In April 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado sparked national controversy and debate regarding gun laws and school security when they brought firearms to school and killed 12 fellow students and later took their own lives. This debate was reignited in 2012 when a deranged young adult shot and killed 20 students and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Newsweek reports that since the shooting in 2012, there have been around 150 school shootings and attacks, averaging about one a week. But this trend does not end on school campuses. Gun Violence Archive also reported 330 shootings in 2015 compared to 281 reported in 2014, almost a 20 percent rise. As violence, especially at schools, becomes more common, schools have been updating their security measures and policies to properly and best protect their students.

CHS Principal Rick Lopez acknowledges that this focus has intensified greatly in the past several years. It was not that long ago, he notes, that cell phones and all electronic devices were banned altogether from schools, but after Columbine, public opinion changed, and those devices were viewed as potential life-saving tools instead of classroom distractions.

For the next decade, changes like this slowly ramped up to include teacher training, metal detectors and random searches. Additionally, many schools focused on having safe environments for students to be able to share what they have heard or seen with teachers and administrators.

In 2013, the California legislature amended bill SB-634 regarding school safety. The new legislation required public schools grades 1 to 12 to create a “comprehensive school safety plan to establish procedures for conducting school safety drills.”

The legislation also stipulates that each school’s safety plan must be amended and approved annually by an independent organization. Another item in the bill states that grants can be requested in order to complete a safety plan and that schools must put full resources into anti-bullying efforts.

At CHS, the security policy is considered a top priority by administration and teachers.

“We’re pretty proactive with it,” Lopez continues. “We’ve done some things internally and structurally around our campus. We have three campus supervisors, and we’ve done some things like positioning them around campus where they can put eyes on the front of the school, which is our primary entrance.”

“I have a lot of various ways to keep [campus] safe,” campus supervisor Don Perry says. “Most of what we try to do is being visible, being on top of things and being proactive rather than reactive…. This is not an ideal setup for security purposes. We have a closed campus with one entrance off of a freeway.”

While supervisors rarely have to deal with serious security threats, Perry notes that the procedure and protocol remain the same in the event that a serious issue arises.

Lopez also mentioned that the campus supervisors are also consistently running perimeter checks in golf carts, and teachers are trained to call and alert the office if they witness anything suspicious on or around campus. The staff has also been designated in teams in case of emergency such as a medical response team, a search and rescue team and a communications team.

Another element of campus security that is rapidly increasing is video surveillance. In 1999, before the Columbine attacks, only 20 percent of schools were equipped with cameras, but now over 60 percent of schools have them.

“We have plans to slowly and incrementally cover the whole campus with cameras,” assistant principal Tom Parry says. “There has been new technology—before you had to hardwire them…but now with wireless technology they are easier to install. I can see live time as well as [watch] recordings.”

Additionally, the law requires for high schools to run at least two fire drills over the course of the year, and one full lock-down drill involving law enforcement. This drill is intended to prepare for a bomb threat, hostile intruder or any condition where the insides of classrooms are safer than the outsides.

“It’s funny, they require more on the line of fire drills than [intruder] drills,” Lopez continues. “In my career, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a true emergency situation around fire…. But I’ve called live lockdowns multiple times in situations requiring weapons on campus.”

While Carmel High may not seem like a probable target for a large scale attack, Lopez says it is not worth the risk of not fully preparing.

“When you hear or read about tragic situations, what do you always hear? ‘Can’t believe it happened here,’” Lopez notes. “Any risk or any concern is serious when you talk about any risk that extreme.”

The most helpful thing students can do to keep the campus safe, according to Parry, is general awareness and sharing what they hear or see with administration and teachers.

“We will keep things confidential so you can feel safe coming to us,” the assistant principal says. “In any kind of tragedy, very often students know before any teachers…. It’s all the same goal: to keep our campus safe.”

-Jack Ellison