Beverly balances student freedom, safety

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From the Sept. 27 print edition

Robert Katz web editor-in-chief

Half a year since Newtown, Conn., made headlines, school security remains a heated topic for Americans. Administrations across the nation continue to deal to varying degrees with escalating fears of intrusions. Lawmakers have proposed drastic solutions, including California Republican Rep. Tim Donnelly’s proposal to arm school teachers and California Republican Rep. Kristin Olsen’s pitch to install “panic” buttons in schools.

While increased interest in protecting students ought to lead to safer school environments, we should consider, as the benefiting party, how new laws and practices can affect our liberty on campus. As Beverly students, we also should recognize that our school offers us quite a degree of freedom relative to other campuses.

Though we are loath to admit it, Beverly places trust in its community and in its students, as security on our open campus is more restricted than restrictive. While security usually stops about 30 people entering the campus (usually tourists or people taking a short- cut to Century City) per day, I have never felt threatened by outsiders to the school. As well, transients occasionally venture onto campus to loiter, but I rarely hear of any significant stories of students be- ing harassed by outsiders.

Considering the school’s current security and recent decisions to upgrade school protection, students have quite a bit of leeway on campus, especially compared with other schools. Quite famously, the Los Angeles Unified School District has employed metal detectors at some of its campuses since a student accidentally shot two peers 20 years ago. While many conclusions can be drawn regarding the tragedy itself, it is merely interesting to note the discrepancy between a district with daily random weapon checks and a neighboring district where gun violence is uncommon. We’re fortunate that our school’s past does not force the administration to strip us of a right to privacy.

As the preceding writer in this series pointed out, the school’s policy restricting students from setting foot off-campus does seem to be an unnecessary impediment. However, there isn’t much any- one can do about it; our lunch period counts among the number of state-mandated hours in a school day. The constraint on our schedules, though inconvenient, is out of Beverly’s hands.

Because we can’t have every liberty we want on campus, freedom as it relates to high school is a matter of relativity. Students will (probably) never again be completely free to hover on and off campus as they please, but our boundaries look pretty flexible, considering that schools can constrict their students more, whether out of necessity or proactivity.

While the media usually takes creative liberties when presenting school strictness, the reality at Beverly is quite moderate. It is remarkable and likely fortunate that, although the aftermath of the events in Connecticut has prompted Beverly to take steps toward stricter and more insulating security, the administration has left our attractive campus (currently) unmarred by fences and our current freedoms unscarred by fear.

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