Active Shooter: Are We Prepared for the Worst?
Officer Martinez (left) & Officer Barnes (right)
School shootings can occur anytime of the school day for reasons unknown by gunslingers wanting to cause harm to our students, be it another student, staff member, or a complete stranger. Sadly, school shootings are an unrivaled tragedy affecting the place where parents send their students for their future.
In fact, any school could be affected by a school shooting.
So what would we do during a shooting?
In the words of Principal Millaci, a lockdown would be in place and the authorities would be called.
“Definitely a lockdown would be called,” said Millaci. “That’s why we do our lockout, why we practice our lockdown drills where all doors and things are locked and people will be in their classrooms. We notify the proper authorities, and really the authorities are the police.”
Our school's police force consists of Officer Barnes and Officer Martinez. They’re trained for the situation of active shooters and continue their training throughout the year to keep everyone safe, as officer Barnes told us.
Much of their training stems from the Columbine High School massacre in which 12 students died and 24 were injured at the hands of two student gunmen, known there as the Trenchcoat Mafia. The shooting is what’s changed their way of training to prevent shootings.
“So, we would have to check everywhere in the school, and that takes around 4 to 5 hours. We have the firefighters come in too, and just try to sort through it all and get as many injured people out as possible,” said officer Barnes.
Students weighed in on how they might feel in the aftermath of a school shooting.
“I would think I wouldn’t be able to come back to school. I think it would affect me mentally,” said CHS freshman Dereon Coleman.
Other students gave similar responses.
Freshman Albert Matthews said, “Honestly I would feel scared in the environment I am currently in, cause, at that point I would think, well if it happened once, would it happen again? I mean, how would I be safe if I go through it the second time? I would just be scared and uncomfortable in my environment.”
The general opinion remains the same with many other students. Most students are suspicious of others starting school shootings, though mostly of paranoia. And the Heritage High School shooting on September 20, 2021 still rings clear in students’ minds, which motivates their next action: saving who’s important to them.
Most students interviewed agree they would try to save family and friends and escape.
When asked about our school’s current security situation, some students argued that bag- checking is currently insufficient as a safety measure.
Matthews said, “You can have actual metal detectors that work. You could have people that actually try to look through bags, especially secondary bags that someone's carrying… if they checked both bags then I think that’d be better.”
Portsmouth Public Schools and Churchland High School have a crisis plan in place. We find that not just students, but staff as well as family members are provided service from the guidance counselors after a shooting, and our crisis plan ensures mental assurance for our students.
There’s specific grief and trauma-based counseling that would be put into place for students affected, and we learn that after a different school shooting, nervousness and anxiety arises in students.
“All of the school counselors are part of the crisis plan,” said guidance counselor Mrs. Bonney. “So, specifically the school counselors are in charge of the grief counseling that is required after something like that happens in the building and the grief counseling would be provided to students, staff, family members of the victim. So all of those people would fall under our responsibility.”
Bonney confronts the safety mindset by putting into place that an event such as a school shooting can happen to any school, no matter what we chose to believe that our school could be unaffected. With our understanding of the situation at hand, our students should be in capable hands to relieve the aftermath of this.
Millaci adds that the school tries to do everything it can to prevent these types of tragedies.
"We want to be as preventative as possible,” he says. “So not only do we want to prevent weapons and things from coming into the building, which we do a good job at, but we also want to be preventive. And again, knowing our students and our staff and making sure that if you see something that's maybe off we have relationships and conversations so that we can prevent anything from happening. Not only in our school but we don't want them to harm themselves or someone else outside of the school either, I would never want to see that with any more students or staff."
Millaci continues, “You will notice if there’s a red flag or something that we need to, really, take a closer look at.”
With our students noticing these red flags and speaking out, our school can continue to be a safe environment for us all.
Photo: Ny'Asia Teasley