High school safety developments: Are they enough?


Spencer White

Security cameras in the hallways of West Ottawa High School.

Spencer White

   Soph. Landon Kipker is arriving at school after a doctor’s appointment when he checks the time. He’s only a few minutes late, with any luck he won’t be marked tardy. After 15 minutes, Landon is late to class after struggling to get through multiple sets of doors, requiring an administrator to let him in. This is far from the first case where a student ended up late to class on behalf of the multiple sets of doors guarding the main entrance of the North building. Unfortunately, this extensive struggle to get through this safety measure may not be worth it in the long run. 

   Obviously, safety is a crucial factor in public domains, especially schools where the youth develop into adults. Without basic safety measures students would be able to get away with malicious actions much easier. Additionally, safety measures are crucial in the case of dangerous situations such as fires, lockdowns, or even school shootings. With light to the recent shooting at Michigan State University, this type of situation can happen anywhere at any time, which makes school safety a very necessary implication. 

Triple set of doors at the main entrance of the south building. (Spencer White)

   However the recent man-traps installed in the building are an interesting story. Unfortunately, the additional set of doors makes entering the building more difficult for students. Sr. Dylan Markovich said, “The extra set of doors are great if someone dangerous were trying to get in the building, but having to walk around the building to get inside during the day can be a hassle.” This can be quite an annoying obstacle for many students. Especially for students who have doctor or dentist appointments or other important events. What’s worse is that the struggle to get into the building may not even be worth it. 

   If more sets of doors were added on each entrance, then the idea might have more purpose; however, there are only new sets of doors on main entrances. If hypothetically someone did have horrid intentions towards the students in West Ottawa, the attack would most likely occur when students are walking between buildings. After all, hundreds of students walk between the buildings every hour.

   Along with the new sets of doors at the main entrance, the administration installed vape detectors in bathrooms with the purpose of catching students vaping. When a detector activates, the administration looks through security footage and identifies all students who entered or left the bathroom in a certain period of time. These students would then be searched for vapes or other smoking devices potentially in their possession. As for the unfortunate students who were innocent, they would need to be cleared in order to return to class. 

   Of course, the guilty students are in the wrong for bringing vapes to school in the first place. A school is meant to be a healthy environment, to simply let students vape would be forfeiting this idea. However, the security procedures taken after a vape detector goes off seems a bit overkill, especially for those who are innocent. Innocent students should not have to pay a price for others’ bad behavior. Unfortunately because of these recently added policies, many students are beginning to think negatively about campus safety.

   A study conducted through John Hopkins University revealed that schools with high surveillance affected students worse than schools with lighter surveillance. The researchers created a model that allowed them to disregard the social and economic background of students. The model consisted of adding multiple safety measures to schools including metal detectors, random dog sniffs, identification badges for students, and various other measures. 

   According to this model, researchers of the university concluded that students in high-level security schools were less likely to go to college, were less academically successful, and were suspended more often. Of course, more surveillance would most likely account for the additional suspensions, but the study’s results appear to contradict this idea. Odis Johnson, a professor at John Hopkins University and participant in the study said, “We’re saying lower scores and lower chances of going to college aren’t due to a student being suspended, this is just isolating the impact of being in a school that surveys more heavily.” It seems that regardless of suspensions and punishments, schools with high surveillance are still experiencing the negative effects. “These are ways that students feel less like students and more like suspects,” Johnson said.  

Set of two cameras sharing the same hallway.

   While these new developments may seem problematic, beneficial changes to safety on West Ottawa’s campus have also occurred. A member of WO campus safety said that they are not spending as much time this year herding students back to class if they are in the hallways. Hopefully this will allow for students to step out of the classroom for a few minutes and get some relief from classroom pressure without administrators accusing them of skipping class. 

   This seems like a much more beneficial change to West Ottawa’s safety department. Instead of constantly reminding students to remain in their classes, campus safety is instead focusing on the general safety of students. Students need adults in the building who they can trust and go to in certain situations, not parental figures threatening a trip to the office for skipping class. This new concept of campus safety is no doubt a step in the right direction for WO staff and students. 

In short it seems that WO had good intentions with the added safety measures, however they might have missed how the negative implications can affect students. Basic security and surveillance of course is necessary and beneficial, but additional measures such as man-traps and vape detectors will not solve the big problems seen today. In order for WO to persevere, both students and staff must strive to create a healthy and happy environment for everyone. Students deserve to be respected and attend school without any implications of potential danger. Perhaps given time with this kind of construct, these newly added security devices would no longer be needed.