After the recent school shootings, assistant opinion editor AJ Melillo decided to go back to his old high school, Central Regional High School, to see if any changes were being made to make the building safer for its students. Melillo discovered that the close culture is not only the high school’s perceived key to academic success but also to keep the students and staff safe if anything dangerous were to ever occur.
In Bayville, New Jersey, Central Regional High School has been working to make its students safer, and they have discovered an interesting way to help alleviate the risk of a nightmare situation from taking place in their halls.
The administration at the school believes that the best way to prevent a school shooting from happening is to change the culture in the school itself. They think that if students have an open and positive relationship with the school security officers, teacher and administrators, any issue can be resolved before anyone gets hurt.
When speaking with students, it was clear that they feel like the biggest threat to them is their fellow students who know the school, the safety protocols and that they may feel that they are being disenfranchised. However, the administration thinks they have helped to solve this problem. They have created a mentoring program and are switching to have a vice principal for every grade.
“This is the second year that we have had the mentoring program to help kids that are maybe either emotionally or socially awkward here at Central. They are actually either paired up with either a teacher or administrator,” said Superintendent Dr. Triantafillos Parlapanides. “We are also, next year, moving to [have a] vice principal [for] every grade level. We are not hiring new people, but we are moving my whole administrative team. Now if you’re a freshman, you’re going to have the same VP for all four years. This way the vice principal is going to really get to know [his or her students]. I think this will make a better student-admin relationship.”
In another precautionary act, Central Regional High School has moved from having one police officer to two in their building at all times. This decision has made many students feel a lot safer going to school every day.
“Yeah, I do feel safe [coming to school], from the officers that are here,” said 18-year-old senior JT Murray. “There are two of them, and I feel like they will protect us.”
The students in the school have a lot of confidence in their school officers to protect them if a situation were to ever arise in their school.
“I think the cops are well-trained to stop something like that,” said 17-year-old senior Reese Mangold.
There has been a police officer in the school since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, but the two-cop policy was first implemented on March 23 of this year, which left the student body and faculty feeling safer in the building. Along with that, the officers on duty feel like with two cops, they are more capable of protecting the whole school.
The Berkeley Township Police Department also makes sure that they only send officers with a lot of training in high pressure situations or officers that are alumni of the high school because they would know the layout of the school the best.
“Two cops is a good addition, and it helps us spread out more in the school,” said Sgt. Michael Ptaszenski said. “Obviously we would always like to have more because the more the safer. But we also do not want to turn this into a facility where kids feel like they are in jail. I think [two] is good for now.”
The school is also planning to have cosmetic changes to their buildings to make it safer from an outside attack. They are planning on changing all of the glass doors in the high school to 3M glass, which is not bulletproof but shatter-resistant. This will extend the action of breaking down a classroom door, giving more time for officers to get to the scene. Along with this change, they are beginning to blockade hallways with gates so that people cannot access certain parts of the building after school ends, which will also work to contain a shooter in one part of the building.
Central Regional High School is taking many measures to ensure the safety of their students and is setting an example for other schools to follow. With an increased focus on the culture of the school along with making needed personnel and cosmetic changes to the building, it is developing a safe, educational and enjoyable environment.