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After Parkland, community considers next steps
March 15, 2018
School started off normally for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of Parkland, Broward County, FL, until, at approximately 2:20 p.m., 17 people were shot and killed with an AR-15 rifle.
The tragedy has been sobering, the latest in a long chain of American school shootings, yet it has also sparked a push for change across the country.
Naturally, the incident in Florida has raised concerns at the high school about safety, leading community members to examine school safety policies more closely. According to Headmaster Anthony Meyer, some customs at the high school, such as an open campus and myriad unlocked doors around campus, are both potentially dangerous and simultaneously important to the culture of the school.
“We have long valued openness and a welcoming school,” Meyer said. “However, that bangs up against some of the safety concerns people have.”
Superintendent Andrew Bott sent out an email on March 1, 2018 to all Brookline Public Schools faculty describing the next steps in light of Florida’s tragedy. He reported that the district is beginning a review of “current procedures and training” which will be finished by the end of the school year.
According to Brookline Police Department’s Deputy Superintendent Michael Gropman, the protocol for an active shooting must be updated after each additional incident.
“The new way of doing it is the active approach,” Gropman said. “If the threat is away from you, you run to try to get out of the building. If it is near you, try to hide so you don’t become a target. And if the threat is active near you, you have to fight rather than hide, in hopes that you’ll be able to take the gun and bring down the threat, or that other people under threat will be able to take the gun.”
We have long valued openness and a welcoming school. However, that bangs up against some of the safety concerns people have.”
— Headmaster Anthony Meyer
On Friday March 2, Meyer and Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason made announcements in the cafeteria explaining recent improvements that the school has made in the past five years regarding school safety. Mason explained that the school has secured locks, given teachers the ability to lock any room from the inside, ensured that all exterior doors can be locked with a button and replaced glass in windows. He also encouraged students to reach out when they see something suspicious.
According to senior Sophia Glazerman, these communications help for students who are on edge.
“The number one thing is just communicating with the students,” Glazerman said. “Every step that they take, they should be kind of letting all that information out to the students.”
Steps to Success adviser Melissa Sirin both attended and taught at a school in Broward County in the past. According to Sirin, at this school, Miramar High School, there were far more stringent security precautions in place, which has made her consider the protocols at BHS. Visitors came through one main entrance, had their driver’s licenses checked and were escorted by security through the building.
“If I, as a teacher, wanted to go and go out to lunch, I couldn’t,” Sirin said. “We had about nine security guards who were there full time and we had two resource officers who were there full time.”
However, Sirin acknowledges that these measures do not make sense for this high school.
“Do I think that locking all the doors at BHS is going to work? No. It’s a different community. I don’t think it’s needed. I don’t think it’s practical for our particular school,” Sirin said. “Sadly, none of this can be predicted. You know, we’ve had instances at my school where I taught in Florida where, yeah, doors are locked, no one can leave, but someone still gets through.”
According to both Sirin and Meyer, supporting students emotionally is crucial.
“I would say we value knowing our students and having all sorts of mechanisms and collaborations and structures to make sure we have an ongoing sense of our kids, particularly ones that are struggling,” Meyer said. “And then figuring out the right way to intervene to support them.”
Ultimately, Sirin feels that no student should have to resort to violence.
“The last thing I want is for any student to feel like they no one to turn to, and instead they have to pick up a weapon and deal with it that way, whether on somebody else or themselves,” Sirin said.
While the school safety policy is important, many feel that Congress must be held accountable for their lack of action in affecting national change. The episode at the Parkland school has led students across the country to protest; most visibly, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School itself. Students such as Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky and Delaney Tarr have become national spokespeople on the issue of gun control in just a matter of weeks.
Moreover, organizers from Women’s March have created a nationwide walkout to both show solidarity for the shootings’ victims and demand change. The #Enough: National School Walkout will take place on March 14, 2018, the one month anniversary of the event at 10 a.m. in every time zone. The protest will last 17 minutes, representing one minute for every casualty. So far, John D. Runkle Elementary School, John Pierce Elementary School and Edith C. Baker Elementary School are signed up on the Women’s March website. There are also protests planned for the future around Boston, the capital and the rest of the country.
Students here at the high school planed to walkout on March 14 as well; however, due to inclement weather on March 14, the rally is postponed to Thursday, March 15, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Since hearing about the shooting, sophomore Shoshana Goldberg has become very involved in these efforts. She originally organized a group on Snapchat to discuss planning for the walkout; however, this group no longer exists. According to Goldberg, a new group including herself, senior Anthony Vieti, junior Alexis Raitt and freshman Charlotte Vincent met with Dean of Faculty Renee Ramos and Meyer on Tuesday, March 6 to discuss how to run the walkout. Since, more students have joined the efforts.
The administration has decided, according to Meyer, that there will not be punishment for students participating in the walkout, as long as it is only for the duration of the walkout itself. According to Meyer, the administration must find a balance in supporting important causes without invalidating those who wish to not participate.
“We want to support student voice on a really important issue, gun violence and school safety. We need to balance that with our roles as public servants, meaning we can’t tell our students what they should believe,” Meyer said. “I think we need to be very careful about being very supportive of the walkout while not saying ‘we all want you to join in.’’
According to Vieti, who spoke the high school’s walkouts regarding race in November, protests like these are effective.
“The protests we had about the N-word. As a lot of students can already notice, you can already feel the administration here at school taking this stuff seriously,” Vieti said. “The administration even here at school is already making changes. Why? Because the protests happened.”
According to Goldberg, the onus is on politicians to actually crystallize change and pass legislation, so that schools do not have to adopt excessive security measures. Student walkouts are a way for students to have their voice heard.
“We don’t want to live in a world where you’re scared all the time and you have police at the door. That’s not the type of world we want to live in, yet we don’t want to have these things happen,” Goldberg said. “So our anger is towards these politicians. We want an answer from them. Our parents, they elected them. The generation before us elected them, so we want answers, as children who can’t make change instantly.”
Vieti agrees that the change must come nationally; while schools can increase security, safety will come with gun control.
“We’re really trying to go out and ask the politicians, the congressmen to do something about it,” Vieti said. “The school can do something about it here, but not every school has the same possibility and acceptance that Brookline High has.”
Furthermore, Vieti feels walkouts are important in allowing groups to band together.
“Even in the N-word protests you could have noticed that at the beginning everyone was really agitated” Vieti said. “But really at the end you could see people came together, and that was what was really powerful—that’s what can bring us together as a country.”
Glazerman agrees that young adults must make their voices heard after the shootings in Parkland.
“This time it just feels different. And I know that other people feel the same way because the conversation isn’t dying down after a week. It hasn’t passed. I think that we feel sometimes we don’t have power in our voices, but we clearly do,” Glazerman said. “All across the nation there have been walkouts, and we are the rising generation, and we have so much power. Because we’re going to be the next members of congress and we’re going to fill in all these positions some day.”
According to Goldberg, statements of “thoughts and prayers” are no longer enough.
“This is our tipping point,” Goldberg said. “We don’t want this to happen again.”
Additional reporting by Natalie Jew and Jordan Watts