BY NINA PATEL
In light of recent school shootings, the topic of student safety has been repeatedly questioned, and while Carmel High School has various safety measures in place and many discussions have been conducted about student resource officers, security cameras and greater security measures, little has changed on campus.
School shootings are not a new phenomenon—they date back to the early 1800s—but injuries and death tolls have only seemed to go up as time goes on. One of the first major shootings occurred at Columbine High School in 1999 with 13 total deaths, but recent death tolls have reached into the high twenties. There have been four school shootings alone since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Mr. Perry, Mr. Leigh and Ms. Hardisty, known affectionately on campus as Don, Josh and Tammy, can been seen daily patrolling the CHS campus and zipping around in their golf carts, but their roles as the campus’ supervisors are key to campus security.
“Our main role is keeping the campus and all of the students on campus safe and protected and [in] the places they need to be,” Leigh explains.
During the day, Perry, Hardesty and Leigh can be seen out and about, watching the halls and guarding the parking lot.
“The basic rule is to be visible,” Perry says. “To ensure people [and] students that we are here and that we are concerned about their safety and that we are watching out for anything that could happen during the day. We are kind of soldiers on the ground.”
CHS has a more open campus than most high schools, with little fencing around the perimeter and access to the highway, making it vulnerable to intruders. Perry explains that the campus supervisors are always monitoring people and cars entering school grounds to determine why they are on campus.
The campus supervisors also occasionally monitor the security cameras on CHS, yet principal Rick Lopez explains that currently there is no one watching the cameras full time. He says the administration will not consider getting someone to watch the cameras full time unless coverage of theses cameras is significantly increased because, while the cameras have been helpful in several situations, the quality and coverage are not ideal.
“I wish I could say that our role has changed because of the tragic school shootings, but I don’t know what we can do differently,” Perry says. “I am even more aware of unfamiliar cars and people coming on the campus and frankly a little more nervous when I approach someone than I used to be. We would be the first casualties of a hostile intruder who opens fire on campus. I have no idea what the district has in mind to ensure greater safety. There are study groups looking for solutions, but somehow no one has asked us, ‘the troops on the ground,’ whose job it is to keep [students] safe, for any input.”
One change that has occurred for the supervisors is their work hours. Until recently, two campus supervisors were present on campus from 7:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. while Hardesty’s shift would run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This enabled the campus to have three supervisors patrolling for the majority of the school day. Now only two supervisors will have a typical shift from 7:15 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the final supervisor will be working from 9:45 a.m. to 5:45p.m.
Currently, Lopez says there is no plan to hire additional supervisors or security guards.
In Carmel High’s history, there was once a student resource officer, or SRO, stationed on campus in addition to the campus’ supervisors. An SRO is a train police officer present on campus on a daily basis to ensure the safety of students, and there are several local schools, including Pacific Grove High School and Monterey High School, that incorporate this feature into their campus security.
Student resource officers can play a huge role in the safety of students on campus. On March 20 one student was killed and another injured at a shooting at Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, Maryland. The SRO on campus proved to be invaluable by responding to the situation in less than a minute and effectively ending the threat of the shooter.
Former CHS principal Karl Pallastrini explains that the high school had an SRO for about one year from 2006 and 2007. Due to lack of funding and understaffing in the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, he says, the officer was taken off campus the following year.
Because there are no schools within Carmel city limits, CUSD is left to deal with the sheriff’s department instead of the Carmel Police Department, and while it is likely that CPD would provide aid in case of emergencies, protection of CHS is not in their jurisdiction.
Lopez has expressed a desire for an SRO and explains that one would definitely be beneficial for the school.