Robert Katz, assistant web editor
December’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was enabled by an unsound, exploitable security mechanism implemented only shortly before killer Adam Lanza’s attack. Rejected after “buzzing in” at a freshly-installed glass security door, the gunman resorted to firepower to shatter a sizeable hole in the door through which he could enter unimpeded.
In the wake of Lanza’s unhindered spree, many Americans have grown fearful for public safety. The most pertinent of these concerns has been regarding the safety of educational facilities, and Beverly should not be exempt from a skeptic eye.
Although Beverly is situated in a relatively crime free area, only underwhelming security measures remain at the post to protect students and faculty from the threats that may loom in the future. Each building is porous with unguarded, unlocked entrances, and campus guards are few and relaxed. As unfortunate as it may be, a compromise must be made between the luxury of freedom that Beverly grants its students and a more concrete assurance of safety for all.
Beverly’s open campus is both a gift and a curse to its community, allowing flexibility for students and staff at the cost of real vulnerability during school hours. Walking south along Heath, anyone is offered a plethora of unlocked entrances, many of which allow access to the entire school complex. Doors across the garage leading into the first floor, science building plaza and theaters welcome all who enter, not often discriminating between those who should and should not be granted entry.
Conversely, there is a guard presence at Beverly that has remained for years but has not heightened enough in strictness to match the increasing alertness among the nation. While incremental improvements have been made over the past few years, such as the placement of a watchman to survey vehicles entering the school, an injection of more guards to cover the campus is welcome. The handful of guards strewn about the campus are not superheroes, yet they are entrusted with the superhuman duties of supervising vast plots of real estate.
Yet, more locks or guards should not be the answer to pleas for heightened security. The most effective shield for Beverly is the oft-rumored fence which the Board of Education has considered on and off for years. A chain fence, as the Board has appeared to be discussing again, would allow the most favorable combination of freedom and protection for students and staff as well as requiring less district funds than hiring new guards.
The Board of Education’s expressed desire to amend the school’s security is greatly relieving. Still, similar plans have emerged in the past only to be stomped on, particularly in respect to suggestions of the infamous fence that have earned such irritation. Although it may have seemed unappealing in the past, 2012’s bitter end has ushered in a year focused on safety over pettiness. Compromises must be made between what Beverly takes for granted and what it desperately needs. Beverly must take Sandy Hook’s lesson to heart.