Face Off: Security Upgrades

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Faceof: Security Upgrades

By Ben Fox, Elizabeth Campbell, Sports Editor, Editor-in-Chief

 Improved security creates safer school environment

When tragedy occurs, survivors and spectators are constantly left asking: what more could have been done? Was security too weak? Were there flaws in the system that could have been fixed? How could one more innocent life have been saved?

Recently, MCPS introduced a number of new security measures designed to protect students and faculty. These measures were largely formed in the aftermath of a growing number of high-profile school shootings such as the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. These measures, which include an increase in outdoor security cameras, a swipe-in system for arriving teachers and a buzz-in system for school visitors after 2:10, are the best steps forward in creating a safer environment at CHS.

According to Principal Joan Benz, the locations of the security cameras will be determined by a group of administrators who have spent time looking for blind spots in our current system.

Increased security cameras should not be an issue for students and faculty, as they are primarily located around the building’s perimeter, and are meant to keep dangerous individuals from entering the school. Current security inside the building will likely remain the same, which should calm any fears that the administration is turning into a “Big Brother” type authority, always watching CHS students and staff.

The planned buzz-in system will use a scanner to read a visitor’s photo ID, which it will then check against the public registry of Maryland sex offenders. This may provide a nuisance for office staff, but it is essential in order to keep dangerous individuals away from students and to make sure that visitors are open about their purpose at CHS.

Though CHS is located in a relatively calm area, with little crime and violence compared with many school districts, this becomes irrelevant if the school’s security is vulnerable or exposed. Sandy Hook Elementary also was located in an affluent neighborhood, and did not have a history of violence, but that did not save its students from a mentally unstable man with a gun.

As part of a recent initiative to improve security, MCPS has given many of its schools funds to install security cameras and other features that can better protect students. CHS was given over $200,000 to complete the installations.

The money that was given to CHS was specifically allotted for improving security. If the administration does not take advantage of the resources provided, it is wasting funds that could be used to better the school environment.

If CHS truly wishes to prevent disaster, precautions must be made. The new security measures introduced are positive moves in creating a safer place for students to learn. Though it may get some taking used to, it is best for both students and staff.

Money would be better used for arts, counselors elsewhere

Locked doors and buzz-in security systems do not stop an armed gunmen. CHS seems to be ignoring this reality, however, as they begin their preparations for a security system update.

According to assistant principal John Taylor, CHS will be locking the front door and implementing a new buzzer system requiring visitors to be buzzed in to the school, staff to swipe ID cards to gain access into the building and more exterior cameras to be installed around the school.

These new strategies are highly impractical. Anyone looking to attack the school would not wait until all the students leave. Locking the doors after 2:10 will only be a hassle to all those students who stay after school for sports, arts, or academic help.

Administration may argue that since students can have staff swipe them in there will be no issue, but we are not constantly under staff supervision. Many practices are held later in the day, so students often leave the school and then come back through the doors at the top of the A lot. They are not with their coaches when they do this. This new system will either leave frustrated students wandering around the school or frustrated staff constantly being asked to come let students in. All this frustration will lead students to find a way to cheat the system and leave the doors open to make their lives easier, thus rendering the whole system useless.

In addition, according to a Dec. 17, 2012 CNN article, the typical perpetrator of a school shooting belongs to the school community, someone staff might easily admit.

All of these features do not provide any real protection for students.

According to the CNN article, Bill Bond, school safety specialist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, believes there is no security measure that could have stopped the Sandy Hook shooting. He calls metal detectors useless and claims that buzzer systems are just locked doors— they don’t keep evil out.

More than just being unhelpful, these new security systems send an awful message. All of these new devices and polices are simply security theater, measures that make people feel more secure without actually doing anything to improve security.

These new measures just promote the idea that CHS students should be afraid. Fear is one of the best weapons in the world, and we are allowing it to wreak havoc on our schools. These new devices are telling students that a threat is imminent.

We promote messages about standing up to bullies and not allowing ourselves to be manipulated, but that is exactly what is happening. MCPS is letting a very small group of people control how they act and spend money.

CHS should have refused that money or used it instead to increase the counseling staff so each counselor had a smaller number of students that they could get to know on a personal level. The money could have also been used to increase the funding to the arts department and other extra-curriculars, a known way to decrease violence in schools.

According to a May 1 NBC article, a principal of a school in Massachusetts fired all its security guards and put the money allotted for security towards funding the arts and saw a tremendous decrease in violence and an increase in test scores.

Rather than hiding behind useless security, CHS should take a stand. We should not allow risk to run our lives but continue to feel safe in our school without having to hide.