#NeverAgain: A Fight For School Safety

March 2, 2018

“Hey, Hey, NRA, How many students have you killed today?” Student protests across the nation are pleading for their voices to be heard as gun violence in school is becoming more real than ever.

The history is telling. April 20th, 1999: Columbine High School of Colorado experienced the first school shooting that would leave a mark on America when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on their fellow classmates.

December 14th, 2012: Sandy Hook Elementary had a similar experience as 20 year old Adam Lanza took 20 lives in Newtown Connecticut.

On the afternoon of February 14, 2018, Stoneman Douglas High School was under attack as students and staff rushed for safety.

According to reports, School Resource Officer Scot Peterson of Stoneman Douglas reportedly failed to enter the building although he was consciously aware of the deadly situation taking place 50 feet inside the building. A Fox news article with insight on Broward County Sheriff, explained, “the school resource officer instead took up position viewing the western entrance of the building.”

The Broward County Sheriff received criticism for his inability to take action on the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, before the shooting took place.  A report suggests that from 2010-2017 there were a total of 39 calls for service to Cruz’s place of residence. The Sheriff’s Office disputes the number of incidents and isn’t taking responsibility for the inaction of their department to do something about Cruz.

From Columbine to Sandy Hook, school shootings have become the new norm, and the nation knows it. 

President Trump tweeted the need for change:

These feelings of fear and the countless attacks that continue to shoot through the hallways provoked a nationwide event: the school walkout. On March 14th and April 20th — the date of Columbine — students across the country will walk out of school 17 minutes, for 17 lives in effort to make gun reforms.

While they cannot mandate new laws, local communities must consider the effectiveness of what they have in place, from security drills to the role of the school resource officer.

And the issue is not only miles away. It is right here.  Just this week, on February 28, Hammonton Public Schools released a statement and issued a robocall regarding a student who made threats to school safety. The following day, Stockton University and Pilgrim Academy went on lockdown in response to gunshots fired nearby.

A poll of 100 members of the HHS community conducted by The Devil’s’ Advocate into how safe students feel and how effective
they believe security measures are.  49% indicated that they felt as though the current safety procedures are effective.

Hammonton is ranked 53rd of 200 safest schools according to West Orange Patch,  but 51% of students indicated that current school security practices could be improved.  

For Officer Jones, the student resource officer at Hammonton High School, it’s a time to reevaluate current policies and the his role.

“I think a lot of my job here is safety and security, but it is also community policing, and at times it’s for the students to come in here and confide in me” Jones said. “Safety and security is number one, but being friends with [students] is number two.”

According to Jones, Hammonton is a very safe community; however, in the case of a student having psychological disadvantages, Officer Jones believes that it would be beneficial if the state would increase minimum laws as a greater precaution. He wonders if mandating a set period of absence for students who require a psychological evaluation, would benefit in the sense of calming the individual down.

Many questions still remain. The increase in school violence across the nation clearly indicates that there’s more to be done. However, this is not just an issue for Congress or the states to solve. The Hammonton Board of Education, school administrators, and the community-at-large hold the lives of their students in their hands and through their decisions.

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