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High School Safety A Priority Before and After Bomb Scare

On Thursday, March 29th at approximately 9:30 AM, East Providence High School received an anonymous bomb threat by phone. One hour later students were instructed to evacuate the school and walk to a nearby building. The students and staff did an excellent job by all accounts, however it is clearly obvious that our high school is much too vulnerable with these current methods. There was however, no shortage of heated parental complaints following the hectic few hours of confusion, distress, and turmoil that resulted. As well as it went, the event showed the need to improve our strategies to ensure that everyone can exit the vicinity in as little time as possible, including a more concrete plan in the event that an active threat is already inside the building as well.

The issue of school safety is one of peculiar yet unique substance. It is one of the few issues that we can steadfastly admit that too little progress has been made, and at the expense of far too many. More than just East Providence, the safety of our children is a requisite necessity on a universal scale. It is not an issue of whether something should be reevaluated, but rather what measures should be taken in order to prevent future tragedy from striking like a serpent.

On March 20th, nine days prior to the recent bomb threat, a school safety meeting was held at East Providence High School for parents and staff to address their concerns and assert their ideas for a safer school environment. This meeting was held in the wake of the most recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The hard truth is that it is impossible to keep a public building of such capacity completely safe.

Common discussion points such as enhanced security and locked doors were tossed around, as well as how we could implement those accommodations more efficiently in a new high school. Everyone could agree that an increase in school security is a necessity. Such safety measures could include another resource officer, metal detectors, training teachers for such an event, and more meticulous procedures for students and faculty to follow during drills.

Locking the doors may go a long way, but is not too effective when considering the fact that even assault weapons can be easily concealed to the naked eye. This can obviously be problematic to a staff member who views the camera for 5 to 7 seconds and buzzes in the guest. In the current building, visitors also enter through a back door from the faculty parking lot. That door leads immediately to a stairwell, so even if a visitor is 'buzzed in', nothing forces them to check-in with the main office and they have unfettered access to the building.

Keeping all doors secured is also impossible considering the fact that the high school back doors must unlock every period for students to access the Career and Technical Center located behind the school. Anyone can walk in with the students at any given time. It is an opportunity that can’t be beat for anyone who wishes to harm our children.

Adding another School Resource Officer (SRO) was another favored idea, one cannot cover all three floors and both sides of such a vast building. Metal detectors were briefly discussed but it was not an idea that gained much traction. Revising the procedure during such an emergency was widely discussed and favored, considering how chaotic the procedure has gone in the past.

As far as any of the proposed ideas and feedback becoming a reality, that will be up to the school committee, as they examine closely what proposed action is actually going to be formulated, financed, and implemented. The next school committee meeting is April 10th, where plans and ideas will be further discussed.