School shooting leads to conversation about security


Sophomore Claudia Perez rings the bell to be let into the building.

A man named Chris Harper-Mercer walked into Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR with a gun on October 1, killing nine people, himself and wounding nine others. His motive is still unclear, although witnesses say that he asked people about their religion: non-Christians were shot in the leg and Christians were shot in the head.

           The Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund says that there have been at least 142 school shootings in America since 2013, a stat that both startles and worries administrators and law enforcement. “[The Oregon shooting] causes all of us to pause and reflect on what steps we take here at Washington-Lee to try and keep the school safe,” principal Dr. Robertson said.

           The school already has many preparations in place in the event that a gunman does enter the building. Many of these preparations were put into place in response to the Newtown, CT tragedy that killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. W-L holds biannual lockdown drills, and if a visitor wishes to enter the building, he or she must ring a bell to be let in by the office.

    The police department is also equipped to handle certain situations involving armed gunmen in the school. “All of the school resource officers and the officers in the [police] department are trained in school evacuation drills and school entrance drills,” Officer Koch, the school resource officer, said. “This department is one of the better trained departments within the country.”

    The police officers have also familiarized themselves with the school and the layout of the building, coming in over the summer and touring the facility. Knowing the physical geography of the school will better prepare officers in the case of a shooter not only entering the school, but also hiding within the building.

    The preparations do not just involve improvements in security systems. “I think that there’s always an increased awareness of what could happen around us,” a counselor said when talking about what faculty members have been doing to look for threats of any sort of gunman in or around the building. “I think that we have a great staff that looks out for those things.”

    While the school takes building security seriously, the staff also recognizes that teenagers can and have played roles in school shootings. An analysis of school shootings also done by the Everytown Fund showed that a majority of the gunmen responsible for school shootings since the Newtown incident were students between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

    One club is trying to prevent brutality involving firearms among students. Sophomore Claudia Perez is a member of Generals Against Gun Violence, or GAGV. “More than 30,000 people are killed each year because of firearms,” she said. “I don’t think people really understand the seriousness of gun violence.”

    The administration is trying their hardest to recognize students with problems that could lead to dangerous consequences. “We want to make sure students know we’re available if they have concerns,” Dr. Robertson said. “If you need help, seek out support.”