The Ubiquity

QHHS Safety Precautions

Picture by Sierra Gutierrez

Picture by Sierra Gutierrez

By Sierra Gutierrez, Staff Writer

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It was weird to hear of such a dangerous occurrence so close to home. On May 11, 2018, a 14-year-old Highland High School student shot his peer in the arm before school. The student who had been shot survived, and no one else was targeted that day, thankfully. However, the incident disturbed students all across the valley, including myself: I was waiting to take an AP test that day and was sitting for an unexpectedly extended period of time. I was annoyed at first, but then I heard someone say the school was going on lockdown.  

The details came in slowly – it was hard to tell what was really going on outside of the testing area, and the wifi was weak. Were we on lockdown? Why? A shooting? Here? No. At Highland? Was it still happening? Was everybody okay? Would we be okay? I had read the news and done the research on school shootings many times before, but the moment of sheer panic brought on by what happened- and what could have happened- at Highland High School made it all feel so real. And, it appears, I was not alone in that sentiment. Schools all over the district cancelled classes or simply let students take it easy for the day while the administration began to consider their next move.

Flash forward to August. It’s the start of a new year at Quartz Hill High School and quite a few changes are taking place. Students and parents alike are struggling to get the hang of the new parking lot, the Johnny Rebel mascot has been replaced with a conspicuously less confederate-looking image of what appears to be a gold and blue rancher (but really isn’t), and you also may have noticed that fewer gates have been open during the morning rush. These changes may be difficult to get used to for the average student, but will all serve to make our school a better place for everyone- especially the gates and other measures that have been taken to improve security.

“We’ve always taken school security seriously,” says Dr. Ybarra, who was standing at a gate and checking student IDs. “but after what happened at Highland, things began to move faster.” He went on to explain that the administration had decided to limit the number of gates that were open in the morning and throughout the day, specifically mentioning the gate on Avenue L-4, where many teachers once parked.

Other security improvements include the presence of both administration and security at every open gate starting at 6:30 in the morning, a gate with a security code that requires visitors to be “buzzed in” before entering, and the mandatory ID check students must do before entering the school. “…It is inconvenient at times,” concludes Dr. Ybarra, “but I would hope that students understand that it’s all in the name of safety.”

Dr. Ybarra is right about the inconvenience, but also about the importance of these kinds of improvements. While I’ve never personally felt endangered at Quartz Hill, there have been cases such as the planned “Valentine’s Day Massacre” that brought our school eerily close to a Columbine-like school shooting, as well as countless hoaxes and threats made over the Internet that have left the school rather empty and scared parents into keeping their kids at home. Though I have wished that I could go through my usual gate and that I didn’t have to worry about keeping my ID on me at all times (I should really just take a picture of it, I know), it is a good decision that the school is taking steps to make sure we’re a little more secure than we have been in the past- it definitely makes me feel better knowing that the staff cares enough about our safety to put in extra effort for us. For some, however, these changes should only be the beginning.

Senior Michael Zegarra is dissatisfied with the changes this year, but not because of the inconveniences. In his opinion, the school should be doing even more to increase security. “I feel a little safer with all this new stuff,” he said, “But it’s a little dumb…. IDs aren’t going to stop someone from shooting up the school if they really wanted to.” He goes on to explain that, in the wake of the Highland scare, he would even be in support of drastic measures like metal detectors if it meant keeping the school safe. Backpack checks, however, seem a little more plausible to him. “I wish the security would be more active. At this point, I think backpack checks would definitely make me feel safer.” When asked about the issue of privacy surrounding security going through student’s bags, he said, “Only people who do bad stuff should be scared. I have nothing to hide in my backpack.” When asked about what was in his backpack, Zegarra did not open it up, but claimed to be carrying “a couple of notebooks and pencils” and a case for his glasses (To be clear, security CAN search students’ bags if they need to – Zegarra is calling for more frequent and random searches through).

Obviously, not everyone can be pleased. In reality, we have to acknowledge that anywhere you go can feel unsafe- we have no idea who might be carrying a gun or a pocket knife in their purse. However, that’s the risk that comes with living life in a free country. The trick comes with balancing this risky freedom and creating a safe, secure place where students can come to learn in peace. Although some may not be happy with the way this balance currently stands at our school. The recent changes that have been made are an important part of placing the appropriate amount of weight on the “safety” side of that balance. I, for one, am very content with the changes that have been made. Mr. Gutierrez, a world history teacher, seems to agree: “I think that the school staff owes it to parents… to keep children as safe as possible while they are here,” Mr. Gutierrez says. He goes on to address Zegarra and other students’ concerns about the effectiveness of the new policies: “I’m not sure how effective it will be in stopping a real shooter… However, if it even stops or discourages one person from trying something, it is worth doing. I think what we have now is less efficient (accessibility-wise) than an open campus, and I’m sure what we’re doing now takes time and money to implement, but in the long run, campus security may be the best use of that time and money.”

There is no perfect answer to a school shooting. When it comes down to it, all preparations we can make may prove futile in the face of a real disaster- but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. In light of this fact, our school has a decision to make: we can continue on with business as usual and pretend that the Highland incident never happened, we could turn the campus into a high-security prison, or, as Quartz Hill is doing now, we could try our best to find a compromise and take steps toward a reasonable amount of safety for ourselves and our fellow students.

 

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