Keeping BHS Safe

Students speak about their safety on campus and what they want to see from the school, and Principal Todd Edwards speaks about school safety protocols and upcoming safety measures to further protect students.

Lydia Payne, Editor

      In the first two months of 2023, there have been seven school shootings in the United States, following 51 school shootings from the past year, according to the Education Week Organization. With rising school shooter incidents, combined with arguments surrounding gun control, students across the United States have become more aware of their own safety on school grounds. While administration focuses on implementing more safety measures, Bryant students discuss ways for them to feel more secure, following recent events on campus.

       The Columbine High School massacre in 1999 set the precedent for changing school security measures across the United States. Administrators must evaluate plans and procedures to ensure student safety. Principal Todd Edwards, while not disclosing specific protocols in the name of school safety, revealed that there are set protocols for the administration and teachers to follow which are reviewed at the beginning of each year.

     “We train in a crisis situation. You can look at the history of schools handling crises, and it has changed dramatically since the Columbine Massacre of 1999. We do things differently now. Up until then, schools were really good at two things: evacuating and locking down. We are still good at those things, but we learned that, [from] these incidents, locking down was not the best thing to do because a lot more people were hurt because of it,” Dr. Edwards said. 

     Despite schools making efforts to create effective protocols, junior Jenna Taylor believes she has been desensitized to school shootings and expects them to be a problem at school.

         “I talk about [the school shootings across the U.S.] a lot with my parents. With their generation, this is all new to them and they’re terrified of every instance. But growing up with this, it is more like an uncomfortable recognition where at this point, I expect it to happen,” Taylor said.

       For Bryant Schools specifically, the question of if a student feels safe on campus has become a hot topic for debate among students themselves after 18-year-old Quardaurise Dunn, who was not a student at Bryant, was found parked at the bus loop on Feb. 7.

     Officer Chad Winkler reported approached to investigate Dunn in his car, but Dunn sped off before Winkler could reach him. Winkler followed the man off campus before stopping him on NW 4th and Reynolds Road. 

      After being stopped, Dunn admitted to Officer Winkler that his car was stolen and he had a pistol under his seat, before agreeing to a search. Winkler located a Taurus 9mm under the front passenger seat with a live round in the chamber, along with two pistol magazines with fully loaded ammunition—amounting to 36 rounds of ammunition. Along with the weapons, Winkler located marijuana shake in the passenger seat area. Bryant High School administration was notified of the incident. 

     Senior Laci Clifton feels unsafe on campus as she has reportedly seen girls getting harassed on campus without any protection from staff or resident officers. Clifton recognizes a disconnect between our administration and students themselves.

       “I just feel like they don’t build that student relationship like they should. They try to be more authoritarian than they are, than they should be, towards a bunch of high school students. We are about to be grown ups, adults,” Clifton said.

     Clifton also feels like the school’s communication with students regarding issues occurring on campus is lacking due to the school does not want to be transparent with them.

     “I don’t think they want to inform us of things. Some of us are legal adults now and understand the consequences of things like this and can know the danger we are in when something like that happens. We should’ve been informed,” Clifton said.

     Taylor believes the school should go about informing parents about these incidents to let them choose how to handle it with their own child.

     “I think there should be some telling to parents and having them take the responsibility to check on the student and making sure they get home from school safe, depending on how dire the situation is,” Taylor said.

     Senior Slade Hendrix, however, believes schools should notify students and parents only when administration is able to provide a solution.

     “I think they should [inform students] only when they have a solution going forward. I think that it would make unnecessary panic to say ‘hey, this happened and this is a problem, but we don’t have anything to do about it,’” Hendrix said.“I think highlighting what allowed something like that to happen and trying to come up with a solution to fix that and voicing that to their community would be good.” 

     When discussing the incident, Dr. Edwards said that after the chase and arrest left campus, it became a city incident, not a school incident. However, after the incident, an article posted by MySaline circulated around the student body. After reading about the incident, some students began sharing the article around social media, accompanying the argument that the school lacks transparency with students and does not notify students enough about crucial information. 

     Clifton herself was upset that she learned about a gun being found on campus with multiple rounds of ammunition through an article, instead of from the school reaching out, despite the chase not leading to any student’s harm. 

      With teachers being the primary protection of students in most instances, states across the United States—Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas—have taken actions to arm school teachers with firearms. Dr. Edwards stated that Bryant teachers will not be armed, as the campus has other means of protecting students. 

      “There is an argument out there in the nation to arm teachers. Bryant teachers are not armed. There is an armed presence at every school in the district, but they are a licensed police officer for the City of Bryant or they are a licensed security officer that is licensed to carry a gun,” Dr. Edwards said. 

      Despite teachers not being armed, they are prepared and involved with school safety in other ways. They have specific protocols to follow to ensure students safety. 

     “I don’t want to get into the details, but teachers know that in certain situations they should act in a certain way, and we have practiced those and go over them at the beginning of each year. It is always on our mind. When it comes to school safety, we are very serious about it,” Dr. Edwards said.

     However, Taylor noticed the amount of violent issues that are handled by teachers instead of the campus officers. 

     “Whenever you walk around, you can see like police officers and police cars, so there is some resemblance of knowing there is protection, but I wonder, especially with fights, how much they rely on staff and teachers to break those up instead of the police officers,” Taylor said.

      Students experience mixed reactions to the presence of armed officers on campus. Taylor feels protected when the officers are around. However, she feels as though they are not present enough. Taylor believes if she would see the officers more and if students become more aware of their actions, she would feel safer.

     “I feel like I don’t see them [the police officers] enough, which I guess is a part of the problem. As far as when I do see them, I feel more comforted than scared,” Taylor said. “Having police officers more visible and making it more known about what they are there to do and communicating the measures that are made to keep students safe in general might help to some degree [for students to feel safe].”

     Hendrix believes that the campus officers are a positive addition to the school’s security. However, the multiple presences of open-carried guns feels unnecessary to him.

      “I think that the SROs are good, I kind of see them mixed. I am not sure that it is necessary for them to carry guns. That kind of makes me uncomfortable. I would be more okay with one carrying a gun, but I don’t think all of the officers here need to have one. I just feel weird about that.”

     Clifton, however, believes the school should increase their security measures, as there is still an open opportunity for an unknown person to approach the students on campus, due to the campus being completely open.

     “I want them to increase the security. I know we have a few police on here, but the fact I have seen people just walk up to the lunch room while I am in there and I don’t know who they are. That makes me generally uncomfortable. Obviously this person was looking for the office, I found out later, but like it is just scary.”

      To remedy the anxiety from students about the opportunity for problems to arise on the open campus, district administration plans to implement fencing around campus, including parking lots, to avoid the entrance of an unknown person or the exit of a student without the administration being aware.

      “You can walk on to campus from anywhere at any time. It [the implementation of fencing around the school] really is a matter of controlling entrance points, so we can supervise those points of regress and egress to make sure our school is safe,” Dr. Edwards said. “Most of the time we have an incident, it is just a parent looking for their kid’s car, and we would go investigate and that is all it is. But that makes people nervous, so we want to look at some fencing and to be able to control routes onto and off of campus better.”

     With the school planning more ways to create a safer environment on campus, Dr. Edwards wants students to know that administration also needs their help to maintain this safety. 

     “The saying is out there: ‘If you see something, say something.’ We can’t be everywhere. But somebody almost always sees it, and if you see it, you report it. It is anonymous. We don’t give away our sources and if you see something that even seems suspicious, even if you don’t know what it is, you need to ask an adult. Send me an email. Send your assistant principal an email and we will check it out immediately,” Dr. Edwards said. “We take all those things seriously. Don’t ever think that we will think it is silly. We need everybody’s help. If everyone can lean in on this and do their part, we will keep maintaining Bryant High School as a safe place.”