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Locking It Down

You’ve probably noticed a change in all your classes, a school-wide shift that has students and teachers alike inconvenienced. But it’s a policy that is not going away anytime soon. At the beginning of the year, the school came to the decision that it was time to implement a more uniform and stringent set of security measures. […]

You’ve probably noticed a change in all your classes, a school-wide shift that has students and teachers alike inconvenienced. But it’s a policy that is not going away anytime soon. At the beginning of the year, the school came to the decision that it was time to implement a more uniform and stringent set of security measures. Voila! — a new locked door policy that is now part of official Christian Brothers protocol. In preparation for this change, all classroom doors were retrofitted in the summer of 2018 with indoor push button locks.

According to co-Dean of Students Mrs. Cecilia Powers, the locked door policy is designed so that every classroom door will be locked during class time. But as one of the people tasked with enforcing the change, Ms. Powers also recognizes that “it’s not something people are particularly thrilled about, as you can tell. It’s an adjustment for everyone.”

“There have been these tragedies happening for a number of years,” the co-Dean of Students told the Talon. “I think the Parkland shooting last year really put the emphasis on making sure that law enforcement issued best practices are followed.”

The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in February 2018 that left 17 murdered was one of the most horrific school shootings in recent years, but it was only part of a larger problem of gun violence in American schools. The Columbine High School shooting in 1999 left 15 dead. The Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 killed 33. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took the lives of 28 kids and faculty in 2012. And then the Santa Fe High School shooting, only three months after Parkland, resulted in 10 deaths.

While these shootings are the most recognizable, there are dozens of school shootings every year that do not receive national headlines. In 2018, the number of people killed in school shootings (including the shooter) peaked at 56 deaths, the highest number since 1993 when 40 were killed. 

The number of school shootings also peaked to 94 cases in 2018. The US Naval Postgraduate School recorded a school shooting “each and every instance a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time of day, or day of week.” In 2017, the CDC reported that 39,773 Americans were killed in gun related deaths.

“It’s hard because I don’t think any of us want to think about an active shooter happening here at Christian Brothers,” Mrs. Powers says. “We would rather live in denial about that ever being a possibility, and by locking our doors every class period, we are acknowledging that maybe something horrible is happening outside the door. That’s a tough thing to be reminded of five, six, seven times a day.”

Many of the students I talked to agree that though the policy change has been an inconvenience, it is a necessary step in the era of school shootings.

“I don’t think it is that big of a deal,” Sofia Nguyen (‘19) says. “If anything, it’s nice to know that we have safe things in place. At least I know the administration really does care about what we think. And I don’t think anyone has pushback against it other than it’s inconvenient.”

“I don’t care for the locked door policy, I actually don’t like it at all,” Casey Koenig (’19) tells me. “As an office TA, when I have to go and deliver slips to classrooms, instead of just walking in and getting it done with, now I have to knock and everyone looks at me, and I make a disruption and it takes more time. It’s an annoyance! But, at the same time, I do understand what they are trying to get at and promote safety measures. I just don’t particularly care for it.”

“It’s safer,” Mallory Davis (‘19) says. “It’s annoying to have to get up and let people in, but I do feel safer.”

And while it may have been a sudden change for students when the policy was implemented, the school has been looking into the merits of the policy for several years.

“It took us a little while to agree this is what we had to do because we know that locked doors set up a barrier and that it feels for many teachers uncomfortable,” Ms. Powers says. “They don’t want their door to be locked. They want TAs to be able to bring slips and they want students to be able to go to the restroom. They want to feel like they have an open and welcoming classroom, so it’s not an easy adjustment for most teachers and most of the school being a place where students come and go and teachers come and go.”

As an important side note, the policy does not mean that classrooms have to locked during break, lunch, and after school. But many questions still loom, mainly surrounding the degree of leniency and implementation in the years to come. 

“It’s effective in terms of trying to keep our students safe, which, I think, every teacher would be willing to do,” says history instructor Ms. Cheryl Flaherty. “I think the implementation has been not a struggle, but something we are trying to get used to I think, at least for me. Willing to do it because it keeps kids safe? Yes. But figuring out the best way to facilitate that in my classroom is something I’m trying to figure out how best to do it.”

All in all, Mrs. Powers believes the new policy is just another safeguard that must be taken to protect students.

“It’s hard to imagine justifying a door not being locked if there were to be a crisis and our response was ‘well, we knew the best practice was to lock our doors but we chose to ignore that best practice’. Then we’re not taking care of our students very well.”

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