On Aug. 23, a former Oswego High School student gained access to the school and illegally trespassed for an unknown amount of time. He stashed an airsoft gun in a locker and forced our school into lockdown for about 10 minutes before he was apprehended. Just recently, another student was arrested for writing a “kill list” on two bathroom walls. Concerning events, no doubt— not because of what happened, but because of what could have happened.
These incidents got me thinking about our school’s security measures, and if they are sufficient enough to protect OHS students. The conclusion I came to is no. I do not personally feel safe in OHS. I’m not scared or anxious, but I am painfully aware of the possibility of an armed intruder entering the building. And the method by which I reached this conclusion was as simple as a single question: If a person is around high-school age, would they be able to access our school while carrying a semi automatic pistol? The answer is yes.
Of course there are other factors to consider, but I think whether or not our security measures should be considered effective can be neatly summed up into two categories: prevention of a deadly breach and the reaction to a deadly breach. I do not find the prevention or the reaction to a deadly breach, in most cases a student who’s carrying a firearm, to be effective. In fact our ability to detect a student with a firearm, or prevent a student with a firearm from accessing the building with said firearm, is near non-existent.
The issue is not so much having to perfectly defend the school from people who want to harm the students, but more about perfectly defending the school from the things these people would use to harm them.
During the first 20-30 minutes of the school day, before first period, essentially anyone can walk into our school through the main doors. Even if they don’t go here, the chances of them being stopped or slowed by a staff member is low. As long as they look reasonably high-school-aged, they are pretty much in the clear, blended into a crowd of students. It’s not even particularly difficult to gain access to the school at any point in the day; it’s a lot harder if you don’t go here, but it’s possible.
Thinking of a solution to this issue would be difficult if the solution didn’t already exist. The issue is not so much having to perfectly defend the school from people who want to harm the students, but more about perfectly defending the school from the things these people would use to harm them. And inner city schools have been doing it for 15 years.
As of 2003, there are metal detectors in place at over 46 schools in Chicago. Some schools don’t activate them every day, but every school has them. Tracking a few key data points in Chicago and comparing them to the locations of America’s deadliest school shootings gives us an excellent idea of just how effective this preventative measure really is.
For example, let’s take a look at the locations of two of the most deadly school shootings in America. Parkland, Florida, the small town which houses Stoneman Douglas High School, suffered a shooting in 2017 that took 17 lives and injured another 23. Parkland is statistically safer than 85 percent of American cities with a violent crime rate of only 0.60 crimes per 1000 people. Newtown, Connecticut, the site of the now infamous Sandy Hook shooting which claimed a total of 23 lives, is statistically safer than 95 percent of American cities and boasts an even lower violent crime rate of 0.11 crimes per 1000 people, which is virtually nothing.
Now let’s take a glance at Chicago. It is only safer than 8 percent of American cities. That’s an 83-percent difference from Newtown and a 73-percent difference from Parkland. The violent crime rate there is 11.3 crimes per 1,000 people. To add to this statistical difference, 83 percent of all murders in Chicago are done with guns and of that 83 percent, 97 percent are done with handguns. This also means that the gun ownership within Chicago is significantly higher than that of either Parkland or Newtown. Handguns are the most portable and easily concealed guns that exist, and they are also semi automatic. They carry 12-18 bullets on average but with adjustments you can carry up to 24, conceivably even more. In other words, it’s the ideal weapon for a stealthy entrance into a populated area.
Given this data, one might expect the statistical gap between the safety and crime rates to be consistent when tracking the school shootings. It isn’t. Since the day the Columbine Massacre took place in another very small town by the name of Littleton, Colorado, there have been a total of two high school shootings in Chicago. Of those two, one of those took place after school hours and outside of the building. The other shooting was not lethal. In other words, there has not been a single lethal school shooting in a Chicago High School building in over 18 years. You are statistically much safer inside of a school than outside of one in Chicago.
there has not been a single lethal school shooting in a Chicago High School building in over 18 years.
This represents a discrepancy, one that leads me to the conclusion that the higher security being employed at Chicago schools is directly responsible for the clean track record, not that Chicago is statistically safer than any of the towns having suffered a school shooting.
I know that there is counterpoint to this data, and I may as well address it now. I understand that anytime you take data from a metropolitan area, you must take into consideration that the numbers are somewhat inflated purely by virtue of the population being more densely packed. In other words, of course your chances of being murdered goes up if there’s an extra 10,000 people who could be potential murderers.
But that’s actually kind of the point. Chicago being so densely packed, by every statistical factor one could include, the shootings within schools should go up. More people, more murder, more guns, more schools, zero lethal shootings. It doesn’t make much sense until you take into consideration the key differences between the two compared locations. In this case, more security. More security budget per school. Fewer shootings.
That’s the prevention of a deadly breach. Metal detectors at the main school entrances, the security office and the doors students enter through when they get off of buses. All other doors should remain locked throughout the school day and can only be entered by staff members. Very simple to implement and very plausible.
Now there’s reaction, which relies less on data and more on a case-by-case analysis.
The first case most people are going to think of is Stoneman Douglas High School, in which the reaction was an utter failure. Security guards came under fire for performing poorly in there efforts to rescue students, and for good reason. They didn’t do a very good job and, looking back at the scenario, it was hard for most people to see how they couldn’t have done more to help. But it would be a mistake to act as though having armed security guards isn’t a good idea based on this case.
Just recently, a school shooting was stopped by a lone resource officer in Maryland. The shooter managed to shoot two students, neither of their wounds proved fatal, before the officer was able to fire a round. The shooter was pronounced dead later, but the point is this: A quick response by an armed guard put an end to what could have been an exponentially more deadly shooting.
it would be a mistake to act as though having armed security guards isn’t a good idea
I think that OHS should have three-to-four armed security officers. I do realize we already have an armed officer here but I do not think that is sufficient for a school as large as ours, there’s just too much ground to be covered. I don’t think we should arm teachers, mostly because I consider the teacher’s responsibility to be evacuating and their student’s safety. That way, the four guards aren’t responsible for 3,000 students and getting them out of the school—they are just responsible for one person: the shooter, and making sure he can’t hurt students.
With these two improvements, I believe that OHS would be much more prepared in the case of a deadly breach. It would be much harder to get a pistol inside of the school and, if someone did manage to do it, there would be armed security personnel waiting. I think many people share concern with the safety levels at OHS, and the recent lockdown incident and the bathroom threats only light a fire underneath those concerns.