UPDATE: PNHS implements new security initiatives in the wake of the Parkland shooting

Manny Tsang, Staff Writer

On February 14th at Stoneman Douglas High School, 17 people were killed in a mass shooting and 17 more injured. In response to the shooting, Florida lawmakers created a bill restricting the sale of rifles to people under the age of 21, walkouts were planned across the country, and schools across the country had to ask themselves how prepared they were for a shooting. Locally, the incident also inspired PNHS to make some changes to increase campus safety.

The first thing that a potential school shooter has to navigate is entry into the school. School Resource Officer Nathan Slavin said, “The biggest concern is the student lot entrance. That door remains open all day. A potential remedy is to keep them locked and issue student IDs with FOB.” Along with the lot entrance, the main entrance and exit doors are also an issue. Solutions for making sure that the two areas are secure are currently active; Assistant Principal Nathan Ledlow said “Currently, the front doors are locked and there is a pseudo-security guard at the back.”

Other than the entrances, there are plenty of other security issues related to doors. Ledlow said that it’s “not just main entrances, but so many random doors in the locker rooms or the music wing. They’re security issues if they’re not locked or propped open. [The doors being open] risks allowing people who aren’t allowed here access to the building.” Efforts to counter propped doors include public service announcements on hall TVs warning against propping doors open and intentional checking for propped doors.

Another security issue is open areas and shared time. Places like the lower level commons, the doghouse, and the auditorium all pose a unique security issue due to their size and the number of students they can accommodate. Due to the fact that they are open areas, it may seem like students cannot perform the new procedures for lockdowns, however, the school’s ALICE training is effective in these areas, too. “ALICE protocols that apply in a classroom also apply to common areas. I’ve barricaded a hallway during my ALICE training. The first choice is always evacuate. If this is not possible and you find yourself in an area where barricading is not an option, counter will always be an option. Use all means necessary to survive,” said Slavin.

School leaders are also exploring other areas of improvement.  “We’re investigating even more efficient ways to secure entry in the building and classrooms, such as stronger door jambs. We are also looking into how can we quickly close off the line of sight into a classroom easily and financially possible,” said Ledlow.

Finances in general are an issue when attempting to improve security. “We are receiving no extra money from the state,” Ledlow stated. All security improvements will be taken from Northern’s budget. “Overall, our biggest focus is continuous education to students,” said Ledlow, meaning keeping students informed through ALICE training. “Continuous education helps students see warning signs and prevent school shootings from happening, and helps keep students safe in case of emergencies.”

Teachers have also been preparing to best ensure the safety of their students. “We stay current and get practice in our staff meetings, and in email notifications from the administrators and Officer Slavin,” said Lucas Rewa. “We have time in our monthly staff meetings set aside for discussing different scenarios. We are given some information, such as ‘there’s a shooter in the lower commons’ and we discuss what we would do in those circumstances.”

The school’s efforts seem to be working overall, as students express feelings of safety about attending Northern. Feshman Aniken Yeager said, “I feel pretty safe; it’s helpful to know that we are able to protect ourselves if we have to and we don’t just have to hide.”  Senior Ella Trombley agreed: “I feel more safe than I did before, because now we can actually do something about the situation instead of sitting in the corner,” she said.

Both of these statements highlight how important ALICE training has been in improving not just school safety, but student perceptions of safety.