Editorial: New security team takes students by surprise

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As seen in the January 24 issue.

According to The New York Times, today’s students are currently living in “an age of school shootings,” with 18 incidents of school shootings on educational grounds being reported in America in 2013. As the periodic fire drill is being replaced with frequent lockdown drills across schools nationwide, it appears logical that school districts, one of them being the BHUSD, will be taking additional measures to increase campus safety as 2014 rolls around.

As Normans arrived to school at the start of the spring semester, there was a distinct change: rather than the usual security guards located at places such as the entrance to Heath Avenue, there stood armed men next to a car that read “Beverly Hills USD Campus Safety.”  In fact, these officers have been assigned to all five schools within the BHUSD as a part of the district’s Campus Safety Program, with one officer at each elementary school and two at the high school.  According to administration, students at Beverly should have received an email at the start of winter break informing them of this security change. However, Highlights surveyed students on campus, who claimed they did not receive any forewarning of the introduction to the new safety program. Additionally, as homeroom teachers read notes from administrators, tips from counselors and their classroom syllabi, the obvious presence of security officers walking around the school with guns and tasers on their belts was not a topic of discussion.

While the heightened safety measures are a greatly appreciated step toward keeping students protected during this countrywide mass-shooting dilemma, the lack of notification regarding the Campus Safety Officers (CSOs) is problematic.  Without prior knowledge of the officers, how are students supposed to trust these armed men claiming to be hired by the district?  Additionally, it is in the students’ best interest to be educated on the change in security. While most may have observed the CSOs’ presence, few know exactly what their duty is.  It is unclear to the student body why we not only have the previous security officers but also the CSOs, and what the CSOs will do differently.  What weapons do they have on them?  When will they be used?  While these and most of the other concerns students and parents may have regarding the newly implemented measures have been easily answered in a BHUSD press release, those answers have not been projected toward the students, resulting in a school that must blindly accept the presence of armed men without actually knowing why they are here and what they do.  And by not alerting its students of drastic measures such as this, the high school is in fact setting a precedent that will make it the norm for students to simply accept whatever changes occur on campus, some of which may actually pose a threat to the school.

All in all, the Campus Safety Program is a necessary implementation during this time when mass shootings are on the rise, and we commend the district’s steps toward improving student safety on campus. However, perhaps in future instances when there are noticeable changes on campus — be it with security, construction, etc. — students across the district can not only be notified through email, but also through class discussion in order to eliminate the possibility of a technical glitch.  As a result, not only will students be more aware of who is on campus and what their purpose is, but they will also feel a greater sense of trust and confidence in their school district.

Cartoon by AJ Parry

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