Dangerous Doors

Jaden Cover, Sports Editor

During football season, I carried a duffel bag containing my lower pads, pants, practice jersey and a change of clothes every day. I walked through the front door right past security and a police officer. I have never once questioned what was in my duffel bag nor was I asked to open it to display the contents. When I played baseball, I had a much larger bag containing my bat, gloves and catching equipment as I entered the school. Again, I have never been asked to open the bag for the security guards.

I knew what I was carrying in the building, but the security guards did not.

Recent events involving school shootings, especially in Parkland, Florida, have caused Millard West to crack down on students entering in the building through the side doors. A couple weeks ago, I tried entering in the south wing doors in the Green Mile, less than a 100 feet from the “Dirty Lot” where I was parked. I had my hands full with coffee, my laptop, a couple pieces of paper, and IHOP pancakes. No backpack and no bags. My first class is right inside those doors, so I have made a habit of asking my friends to let me in this entrance because it is more convenient and I am rarely redirected to the front doors. A matter of fact, I have had teachers let me in those doors before.

On this fateful day, my hands were too full to call anyone, but fortunately a classmate saw me and let me in the doors. After I was already in the building, a teacher aggressively barked at me that I must go around to the front doors. Had they been polite or if my hands were not full, I probably would have just been quiet and went all the way around. I was already in the building, so I asked if I could just go to my class which was two feet away from me at this point. Rudely, she raised her voice insisting I walk around to the front doors, prompting one last response from me before I reentered the cold outdoors.

“This is ridiculous,” I said to the teacher. I meant it.

I took the five minute detour through the front which involved me being buzzed in through the locked doors, a quick look up from the security guards at their desk, and a check in at the attendance office. No questions about what I was holding, not surprising.

Three hours later I was escorted to the office by assistant principal Mark Hawkins to talk about respecting teachers and following the rules. I was lectured about school safety and the dangers of letting outsiders in. Every point Hawkins made was what he was paid to say. Whether he believe in what he said, his logic is flawed.

I understand this teacher was abiding by a rule that has always been in place. But like J-walking, it is frowned upon, but rarely enforced. With every rule or law created, people should question the effectiveness and safety gained. The key emphasis in this one is safety, but none is being gained.

The idea is that security will be able to monitor each student as they walk inside. With most students entering in the front doors now, there is a higher population crowding in the commons and lunchroom, yet still no security checks when students enter the building in the morning

The enrollment at Millard West is 2,448 students. There are four security guards, and one police officer. Officer Andy Kubik is employed by the Douglas County Sheriffs, so he has to abide by their search and seizure rules. He is very limited on when he can stop and check students’ bags because he has to have reasonable suspicion. It is up to security to check students.

Five pairs of eyes are in charge of checking every student who enters inside the school. These are trained professionals, but let’s not kid ourselves, there is no possible way every student entering the school is seen by one of these five people. Front doors or not, students go unmonitored in the mornings every day.

The IT entrance is the only other place students can enter the school, but half the time I have walked through there, no security or staff member was present. This makes it a little more convenient for students entering the Green Mile, but not any safer.

Principal Greg Tiemann said he understands not every student will be looked at by security when entering the building, but he stated that the staff is also vital when it comes to checking students in the mornings.

“We have to look at suspicious behavior,” Tiemann said.

Security knows some students, Tiemann claims, so they do not check them if they are carrying larger bags into the school. But if the students is gripping the bag tight or his/her body language suggests he/she might be paranoid, that is when security will step in and asks to see inside their belongings. Basing searches off familiarity with students is not sufficient. Security should be checking all students at some time. No one should be immune to random searches.

Plus, the school is losing focus of the big picture by cracking down on students entering the side doors. Teachers are being told to redirect students they see being let in the side doors because of the danger potential of students/outsiders being let in. Every student with a backpack is potentially dangerous. Every parent carrying their child’s forgotten sports equipment in is potentially dangerous. With the lack of metal detectors and inconsistent security checks, the school is no safer when every student enters the front doors. It is beginning to feel like our school is more concerned with what door we enter rather than what we are carrying with us through these doors.

Students are aware of this, too. I conducted a poll on Twitter which asked students if they think teachers cracking down on students entering in the side doors will improve student safety. After 161 votes, 35 percent said yes, while the remaining 65 percent said no. Student feedback should be valued by the administration here, but it has not been a priority through this transition to improve safety.

School safety can be separated into two categories: prevention and reaction. Up until recently, Millard West has primarily focused on reacting to dangerous situations. With consistent lockdown drills and newly implemented active shooter drills, the school is doing a wonderful job on teaching students the proper procedures when faced with life-threatening scenarios within the building.

Where the struggle lies is the prevention of such incidents, and it is not just at Millard West. A panic has spread nationally throughout schools following the horrible massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School. Many people are pushing for more security at schools or arming teachers. Many protests for gun control have sprung up because of the eerie consistency of schools shootings.

“The biggest fear for people right now is how much this is happening,” Tiemann said.

I am not going to argue that Millard West needs to stock up on security, although they plan to hire another one which is a good idea. I certainly am not going to argue that teachers should be armed with guns. No teacher should have to carry a firearm in their classroom with the expectation of firing to kill someone if it comes down to it. As far as gun control goes, I prefer to leave that out of this column. There is nothing Millard West’s administration can do about citizens owning firearms.

What Millard West can and should do, is spend more time focusing on and detecting students who may be suffering from bullying and mental health issues. The zero-tolerance policy in the Millard district is fantastic, and it does a great job handling situations when bullying is witnessed or reported. But bullying does not always occur insight and often goes unreported by the victims and bystanders.

Information has already come out about Nikolas Cruz, the 19 year-old shooter in Parkland, about being a victim of bullying, especially from his younger brother Zachary, 18. Zachary confessed his guilt following the incident. If he would have been kinder to his brother, he believes his brother may not have followed through with his actions.

Bullying is no excuse to open fire on classmates. I will never give anyone an excuse for actions like that. But if this is a driving factor for many shooters, our building needs to have conversations with each and every student to have some sort of understanding what how their school and home life is like. The only time I have talked to the counselors at Millard West are for schedule changes and sending ACT transcripts. This is not enough for most students, and those who suffer from bullying or stress will not willingly go to the counselors.

Students should be speaking one on one with counselors at some points. Many will not dwell into their personal life, but this could be crucial for students who feel they have no one to talk to. More students will come forward, and the counselors will be able to help them positively deal with this. Plus, the ones bullying people will have to talk to the counselors about their actions. They will hopefully be able to see how they negatively affect their peers.

Most school shooters are students, so we need to worry more about getting to know them. Walking through the front doors is not going to stop a tragedy from occurring. The school will make more strides by evaluating the mental and social health of its kids than it ever will by reprimanding them for being let in the side doors.