LION Newspaper

Important measures taken to curve nationwide epidemic

Lindsey Hauch, Pulse Editor

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“It is the type of place where you can leave your car unlocked overnight and think it’s fine,” Gabby Topper ’20 said.

Initially, does your mind jump to LaGrange or Western Springs? The LT community? Or how about Parkland, Fla.– the town where the deadliest school shooting in five years took place?

Topper describes the moment she discovered Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the newly renovated, gated high school just five minutes from her former high school, lost 17 students on Feb. 14. Along with disbelief and anger, she felt extreme surprise.

“Never would I guess something like this would happen,” Topper said. “I’ve been in the school before for sporting events and I would never feel unsafe there. Everyone was so shocked.”

A Lion Newspaper survey of 354 students indicated 93 percent felt mostly safe at LT. The benefit of attending a high school in a safe community, with supportive faculty, is a gift, but one that cannot be taken for granted.

“I’ve been told we have a nice area here,” Student Assistant Yolanda Rodriguez said. “Yeah, you do! But it doesn’t have to be a poor person, or someone from the city. If someone just snaps, that’s it. And if doors are open and you can just walk in, that makes it so convenient.”

Exit 5, 7, 8 and the Field house doors at NC are open around 6 a.m. every morning, Rodriguez said.

“I walk into [North Campus] every morning about 6:15 in the morning, just walk right in,” Rodriguez said. “That’s scary. I walk up those stairs and my heart is beating a little faster every time I do. When I first started here, I would not know what to expect when going up the stairs. Now I’m kind of used to it, but in light of everything going on, I’m back to being sacred again. I don’t know why the doors are open. Anyone can walk in.”

Rodriguez suggests implementing keycards for all students and staff to use to enter the building, a plan she deems necessary considering recent events.

“If you’re not a student here and you don’t have a keycard, you can’t come in the building,” Rodriguez said. “That is the most important thing to me. These doors need to be locked.”

In addition to the key card supplement, Rodriguez recommends reconstructing exit 5, the bell tower doors, to emulate SC. In 2015, SC underwent a large-scale construction project that allowed for a secure entrance to the building. To move the main office to the bell tower and have the power to buzz people in can be important for safety precautions, Rodriquez said.

“We never feel like we are done with security, it’s always something we have to update and reflect upon to make sure we are providing a safe learning environment,” Principal Dr. Brian Waterman said. “We work closely with our local police and fire agencies to constantly update our emergency response plans every year.”

With no current plans in place to make major construction changes to the NC entrance, Waterman instead focuses on the school’s greatest security measure: the attention to mental health.

“Our number one defense is the relationship our adults have with our students,” Waterman said. “I think school shootings, really shootings in general, come down to mental health issues, and the support and relationships that we can provide to students are critical in that effort. We have to have the security measures in place and we have to make sure our school is supporting our students from a mental health aspect. You can’t have one without the other.”

Beyond mental health, another prominent feeling of safety at LT is the knowledge of having full-time Police Officer AJ Hull at SC. NC has a designated police officer come every Thursday, but not full-time like SC.

“I feel a little safer because we have more security guards here,” Topper said. “There’s a police officer on campus and if anything were to happen, we have someone here now. A lot of Stoneman Douglas’s problem was getting people there to stop the situation. The Coast Guard in the area were helicoptering over just to get people there as fast as they could. We already have someone on campus that can help [resolve] a situation like that.”

While the presence of police can be comforting in the midst of a tense school environment, nationwide conversation has now turned to the idea of arming teachers and, more broadly, the concept of gun control. Lion polls state that 36 percent of respondents believe they would feel safer at LT if teachers were armed. 64 percent believe the government does not impose enough gun regulations. Regardless of your opinion on gun control, it is clear that the trauma of a school shooting is terrifying. Topper recalls the experience of her friend, a senior at Stoneman Douglas.

“Bullets were flying off laptops, she saw people get shot,” Topper said. “People were frozen and not really moving, but she was trying to hide people under desks. They have practiced what to do but when it actually happens, all bets are off. You hear about school shootings and gun control but then it happens in your ecosystem and you think ‘this is an issue’.”

Although school security and gun control can be emotional and difficult topics, they directly impact our futures as students, educators and community members. While there is debate over our rights as Americans and individuals, the right to earn an education, a freedom students elsewhere do not share, is vital. To walk into an institution of learning, whether as a student or faculty member, and not feel afraid for your life, is a privilege currently in jeopardy. LT joins the nation and arguably the entire world as we work towards the goal of ensuring our schools are a safe haven, where learning and not fear is our collective focus.

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Important measures taken to curve nationwide epidemic