Facts of the Mass Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:
On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in affluent Parkland, Florida, fell victim to the latest school shooting to devastate our country. With a death toll of 17, the Parkland shooting has become the 3rd deadliest school shooting in US history. Among the 17 killed by 19 year-old Nikolas Cruz were 14 students, ranging from 14 to 18 years old, and three adults: a geography teacher, the athletic director, and the assistant football coach.
Nicholas Cruz, an ex-student just recently expelled in 2016 for fighting, knew his way around the school. He arrived at 2:20 pm when all of the school’s gates would be unlocked to prepare for dismissal. Once on campus Cruz had access to two buildings since the school leaves them unlocked for students to easily get from class to class. Upon getting into one of the buildings, he pulled a fire alarm to get students to exit their classrooms. As the confused students of Stoneman Douglas were leaving their classrooms Cruz opened fire with an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle similar to those used in the military.
Many are criticizing the school’s safety and security, as it was very easy for the shooter to get on campus and inside buildings. One problem at Stoneman Douglas is the lack of security. The school had a football coach who acted as a security guard when needed. Their only other type of security was a guard who was also a deputy within the local sheriff’s department. This main security guard was the only one armed and would be the only one with the right tools to fight off a shooter. Yet, when the shooting actually did occur, he froze outside the school and didn’t go in to help. The town’s sheriff addressed this problem in a press conference, saying the guard should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” Instead, the deputy waited outside for about four minutes.” With this security guard out of the way, no one else could fight Cruz, giving him an open lane.
Another fault is the school’s outdated fire alarm and Code Red procedures. The school had a Code Red procedure that entailed all of the doors on campus locking since they were normally left open. Since Cruz pulled the fire alarm, the Code Red that the school went into was overridden, meaning all the doors remained unlocked and made it easy for Cruz to get in and out. Stoneman Douglas was apparently scheduled to fix this over the summer and had planned to make it so if this ever happened, they could stop the fire alarm and keep the doors locked for student safety.
Radnor High School Safety Protocols:
Sitting down with our principal Mr. Dan Bechtold, I discussed the shooting and what steps Radnor has made to ensure this type of attack never happens. One fault at Stoneman Douglas was the lack of security present, but as Mr. Bechtold reassured me, this is not the case at Radnor: “At Radnor we have two full-time security guards that are on duty at all times during the school day.”
When I questioned Mr. Bechtold about visitor and entrance procedures, he said, if a teacher wants to bring in a visitor, they must email the main office so the visitor can be put on the day’s visitor list for security. Then when a visitor is checked off the list, they hand over their driver’s license to be scanned through our Raptor system. This scan does a background check on the visitor, and if cleared, they are given a badge and let into the school. In finishing he restated, “Not only do they have to have an appointment to meet with a teacher and be on the list, but they also have to go through security clearance in our Raptor.” This intense visitor procedure makes it very unlikely that anyone who shouldn’t be in the school gets let in. This is also why the school discourages students from opening side doors for people because you never know who you may be letting in, but if the person goes through security, then the school does have an idea of who it is letting in.
Lastly, I compared our school with Stoneman Douglas regarding Code Red and Level Two Lockdown procedures. I told Mr. Bechtold about Stoneman Douglas going into a Code Red situation and asked if we had a similar safety procedure. He said, “We have what is called a Level Two Lockdown… This shuts down all the doors and the only people that can get through are those with I-discs.” I-discs are the magnetic keys that will unlock all the doors in the building, and all security and administration has them. Then in a follow up, I asked what would happen if the fire alarm was pulled in the midst of the Level Two Lockdown, as it was in Florida, and he said, “The way that that our doors are scheduled is they’re locked so somebody from the outside can’t come in, but because of fire safety, if students needed to leave, you can go out only.” This is reassuring because unlike at Stoneman Douglas, our Level Two Lockdown would remain intact if the fire alarm was pulled. In addition, if our school ever went into a Level Two Lockdown, it would be very easy for our administration to notify the police, as there is a button in the office called the DelPass alarm. If it is pushed, every policeman in the area is notified and they come ready to run into the building in a matter of minutes. Even though it is still a rare possibility, it is reassuring to know a shooting is very unlikely at Radnor since safety is taken very seriously and our school has done everything in its power to take new preventive measures, as well as to improve outdated systems.