Sandy Hook makes school question its safety

The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut stunned the entire country all at once. Needless to say, students were shocked over the event, and many began to question their own safety in their schools.

Senior Eric Colbert was horrified and said that his first thought was, “Why would someone do this?”

Assistant Principal Matthew Steinecke, however, insisted that CVHS is a very safe, prepared campus.

Concerning overall school safety, counselor Sarah Nahigian agreed that CVHS is safe compared to other schools in the Bay Area, but she still added, “I know that there are some students who don’t feel safe on a daily basis.”

Shortly after the disaster occurred, teachers, students, and parents received notices that the school was under control. They were reminded of standard emergency procedures, but can a school truly prepare itself for a random tragedy?

“We’re already prepared, but we can always prepare ourselves more,” said Steinecke. “It can get difficult, considering we have such a big campus, and there are so many students. We live in Castro Valley and it’s a safe place. We don’t think about feeling unsafe.”

The incident nonetheless did make Principal Mary Ann Valles consider the school’s safety as well. “It was certainly a moment to reflect,” she said. “We have plans and we have lots of training, but can you ever be prepared for a situation like that?”

Steinecke pointed out previous lockdowns and rumors of students with guns on campus. Luckily, none of these incidents ended badly.

“We got security cameras about five years ago, and a new door lock that can be locked from the inside,” said Steinecke. “We get students off the campus earlier after school, and we’ve made zones, specific areas of responsibility that certain staff members patrol.”

On the topic of campus security, Valles added, “There are security personnel and administrators like us to watch areas and make sure students are safe at all times. There’s supervision at all school-related events and everything is planned routinely.”

There are still, however, certain crucial issues to combat.

“If there was a shooting, for example, in between classes and students are in the courtyard when a gun goes off, it would definitely be a challenge. Students should already know what to do in an emergency, but if something like this happens, we’d try our best. We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things,” he explained.

Valles agreed, echoing Steinecke’s main worry. “In that situation, students would have to go to the closest classroom they could find and follow the standard lockdown procedures as the teachers inform them.”

Students, parents, and citizens alike have all speculated on the idea of having teachers carry firearms on campus. However, according to Steinecke, fighting violence with more violence isn’t advisable.

“I can see the rationale, but we’re all educators. I don’t want to carry a gun. We have sheriffs here, and this is what they’re here for,” said Steinecke.

While they won’t carry weapons, the school staff is nevertheless prepared and experienced. According to Steinecke, school officials have received basic training, and the staff will likely train with Alameda County sheriffs officers next semester on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school.

The goal is to be as prepared as possible, and as Steinecke said, there’s always room for improvement.

“I’ve even seen staff members opening the 600 hall gates for strangers,” said Steinecke. “If visitors need to come in, they have to get through the office. Students also need to begin taking lockdowns seriously, because they won’t know what to do if something serious actually happens.”

Many at CVHS agree and support the action taken to improve the school’s emergency response, but some also believe that more preventative measures should be taken.

Nahigian stated that there should be, “more awareness and more services” concerning mental health issues. “I think that’s one of the most important things,” she said.

Colbert shrugged and stated bluntly, “I don’t think any school is prepared for a mass shooting.”

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