Attack is a word that is becoming far too familiar in recent years. Every day it seems as though there has been a scare or attack somewhere. Now the threat feels all too real with attacks in San Bernardino and threats at the University of Chicago and the University of Missouri.
The Holliston Public Schools have been updating their security, recently implementing a new buzzer system to monitor who is entering the school and to keep any dangers out.
“Anything can happen at any time,” said School Resource Officer, Bryan DiGiorgio referring to why changes needed to be made, adding, “we have to prepare ourselves to keep ourselves safe.”
Holliston High School Senior Thomas True said he uses the buzzer system when he “comes back from [his] internship”.
Although the buzzer system is meant to add greater safety measures, True does not feel more safe and said, “if someone wanted to come in they would come in another door.” This is commonly seen as many HHS students open doors for fellow classmates.
When asked about ways of bypassing the buzzer system, Officer DiGiorgio echoed this sentiment, saying, “there’s always a way.” Still, he made it clear that when students do not use the buzzer, it is “not the right thing” and “defeats the purpose.”
However, when properly using the buzzer system, True encountered a lack of scrutiny and said he “rang the buzzer system without a backpack” and was let in and without any questioning from staff members.
The new buzzer system is only one adjustment that has been made by the schools here in Holliston. Another advancement is a new plan of action just in case the school must go into a lock down.
The Emergency Response Plan, given to teachers at the beginning of the year, includes the Intruder Response Plan. The new protocol instructs teachers and staff to “determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life,” also, to “determine the most appropriate response based on the information available.” All belongings are to be left in the building during an evacuation. Any helpful information is given to administration when it is safe to do so. The protocol also instructs faculty to “call 911 when it is safe to do so.”
In the past, teachers were instructed to lock their classroom doors and hide with students in a corner out of view.
With the new procedures, students can use the information they are provided to make logical decisions on what they should do; they have options now.
“Studies have shown that students at the high school age, with accurate information, can make good decisions to keep themselves safe,” said Superintendent Brad Jackson. He went on to say, “the new protocols also are reinforced by just our natural, instinctual response to danger” adding, “cowering in the corner doesn’t really give you a chance to fight, or it doesn’t give you a chance to run away; it’s against our instincts as human beings.”
Officer DiGiorgio said, “We have very good communication — that’s really the most important thing.” He uses the Three C’s, “Communication, Collaboration, and Consideration.”
The system of communication in Holliston is what Officer DiGiorgio said makes him most confident in HHS’s ability to prevent or fight off an attack if necessary.
“I can’t be everywhere, it falls on you guys,” said Officer DiGiorgio, adding that if a student sees something that seems fishy, they should report it.
School safety is all about creating a healthy environment for students: a place where they can establish rapport with the teachers and other students, so they are comfortable enough to report an issue if one were to arise.
“It would be naïve to think that Holliston is any different than most other communities in the nation,” said Dr. Jackson. He also added, “I would say the risk here [for an attack] is about the same as it is in most other communities; no higher, no lower.”
Students have been growing up hearing news that school shootings have occurred, and more often than not the information, and the severity of the issues go unrecognized, of course it is scary for everyone, but for educators news like that of Columbine and Newtown is terrifying and memorable in a horrific way.
Students can’t imagine what it would be like to be a teacher when events like Sandy Hook and Columbine happen.
“Most educators remember where they were when Columbine happened, and remember where they were when Newtown happened,” said Dr. Jackson.
In an email response, Dr. Jackson said, “What is going on in our society today has impacted people to the point where we no longer automatically feel that schools are safe.” He added, “A generation ago, no one worried about school safety — it was just a societal given — our schools are safe. Today, after events like Columbine and Sandy Hook, that assumption is no longer true. That frustrates me because it means that we’ve lost something, an innocence perhaps, that we can never get back.”
Dr. Jackson said, “The number one way to keep schools as safe as possible is to make sure that every student in your school has at least one trusted adult that they can go to when they’re concerned.” He added, “that’s one of the objectives of the advisory program.” Trust is a key to school safety; students must be able to trust the administrators and teachers in the school.
School safety is not something that can be achieved by a single person or a small number of people. Everyone has a part in keeping the school safe.
“There has to be a very, very tight relationship between the school department, the police department, the fire department, youth and family services in town, the district attorney’s office, other mental health providers in town,” said Dr. Jackson. “It’s not about metal detectors, it’s not about buzzer systems, it’s about relationships.”
“Everybody, students, staff, superintendents, everybody is responsible for keeping their school safe,” said Dr. Jackson, adding, “school safety is not somebody else’s responsibility; it is everybody’s responsibility.” He said he knows it seems impolite to not let someone you know into the school, but it is a habit students must break.
The question now is how effective are the new procedures and security updates, and can they prevent an individual with bad intentions from entering the school.
“I think it is 100 times more effective at keeping kids and staff safe should a significant event occur,” Dr. Jackson said.