Administration increases school security to ensure safe environment

Ria Parkih | Staff Writer
Nathalie Schickendantz | Staff Writer

From barricading during drills to staffing entrance doors in the morning, administration is making changes to better ensure student safety.

After recent events such as the Parkland shooting, the school has implemented more policies to increase safety within the school. Some policies that have been either revised or installed include having staff members in front of doors, new personnel to watch security cameras, and the addition of barricading doors during the lock-down drills.

School Resource Officer Nick Fantini has been working alongside administration to plan ideas that will better secure the school. Fantini made suggestions after taking a safety audit of the entire school. Fantini said in the process of finding things to improve, the school needs to continue being a welcoming environment as well as being secure.

“It’s easy to put up a big wall outside with barbed wire and razor wire and electric fences, that would be easy, but it wouldn’t be the right thing to do,” Fantini said. “We look at things and say, ‘how can we make this a safe place for students, or how do we make this area safer than it was already without the student feeling like there’s a prison environment?’”
The front lobby went through renovations to install more secure technology. Originally, the front door had a sensor, which automatically unlocked the door if a student were to walk by. This, however, made the school vulnerable to a potential intrusion, so it was removed. The front desk now uses a higher tech camera system which slows down the system in order for the receptionists to assess the situation. This additional evaluation, Fantini said, allows operators to control who and what enters the building.

“For instance, in the front lobby, that’s where we’re directing all visitors to the school,” Fantini said. “They now have to stop before they are buzzed in and show identification into a camera system, and the camera system has the ability to record and lets us identify if there is anybody of concern that we have highlighted, so they know not to let them in,” Fantini said. “Ms. Phyllis can now take her time to look at what do they have in their hands, why are they here, that kind of thing, and it has been very effective so far.”

Administration starts off each day with a meeting during which they discuss the current safety issues in the school. Assistant Principal Brandon Rompies said students may be noticing new changes, but many of the rules were already implemented only now better enforced. Rompies said a lot of behind the scenes changes are being made with the welfare of students in mind.

“We’re also doing a lot of work that students do not know about that (make) sure students are supported that are going through things, whether it’s mental wellness or a variety of other things,” Rompies said. “(It’s) not that we’re trying to identify an act of asylum, but really, making sure everyone’s well. We want students to have a great high school experience here, and have fun while they do it, and be well.”

Junior Alberto Morales agreed a focus on improving the climate of Mason High School is just as important as the implementation of new safety procedures, citing how students can do their part in maximizing school safety.

“I think the biggest thing to promote school safety is to create a kinder, more genuine and accepting atmosphere in high school. We really need to focus on each other,” Morales said. “I’ve learned in my journey to help others and to serve others I’ve learned to get to know myself more and to evaluate myself more than I did originally.”

Fantini emphasizes the importance of speaking up with concerns. In order to facilitate a safe environment Fantini said we need students to express concerns even if it may seem mundane.

“You’ve got to say something. If the person is really thinking about hurting somebody, then you’re really saving somebody, and you’re part of that whole hero continuum, because you’re getting the ball rolling,” Fantini said. “You’re doing that person justice as well, because you’re keeping them from making a big mistake in their lives.”

Students most recently saw changes to ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) drill procedures, this time administration allocating time for the actual practice of barricading doors. Morales said that barricading made him feel safer by initiating some form of active game plan in the event of a real shooting, but it also made him aware of what he said is an unfortunate reality.

“I think it’s pretty sad that we’ve gotten to the point where teachers and administrative staff have to come to the decision that ‘Yes, we have to lock doors, yes we have to monitor every single person that comes in, yes we have to have these drills so people will know,’” Morales said. “We know (tornado or fire drills) are something that we face, but being able to barricade a door has now reached the same level of (importance) as rehearsing a tornado drill and rehearsing a fire drill. But I feel like if we were to be put in that situation, we’d hopefully be able to react the same way.”

While school shootings have become more prevalent in national headlines, a reality deemed frightening by some, it has presented administrators, teachers and students with an opportunity to act to facilitate a safe climate while at school. Rompies stressed the importance of this initiative and vowed to do his part in protecting students.

“I’m tired of turning on the news and seeing these things and thinking about these families that are impacted, whether it’s here, whether it’s Las Vegas, whether it’s Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, I’m tired of it personally–I think we all are,” Rompies said. “We want to make sure this never happens again; it’s part of my job and something I’m very passionate about.”