Students, SRO examine school safety procedures, new student ID policy

Lorna Ding and Pahal Sehgal

According to the CDC, guns are the leading cause of death for American teens and children. In fact, there have been six school shootings with fatalities in the United States as of January 2023, according to Education Week. After noticing such statistics, junior Grace Larkey said she discovered a passion for researching school shootings and started the club Students for Safer Learning (SFSL).

She said, “I remember after the shooting at a Chicago parade on the Fourth of July (2022), I just kind of realized how the issue wasn’t going away and I just wanted to do something to do about it, so I brought the idea up to (start a club to raise awareness about gun violence) to my friends and they all agreed that it was a good idea.”

Junior Grace Larkey presents during a meeting for the Students for Safer Learning Club (SFSL) on January 18, 2023. At the meeting, Larkey discussed the importance of recognizing ways to be safe online. (Zoe Tu)

Larkey is not the only one who has taken action on the issue of gun violence. Student Resource Officer Ashley Williams said the school has recently implemented an ID protocol to keep the school safe and isolated from such incidents.

“It can be extremely difficult with a large school population to know who is a CHS student. If students have IDs, visible staff can confirm quickly if the person is a CHS student,” Williams said. “I believe that it is beneficial for everyone at CHS to wear IDs just not the student population.”

Larkey said she agreed with Williams, but she said the policy could go even further and require identification to be present at all times on the student body.

“I think it does help with school safety. I know a lot of students probably find it annoying to some extent, but when I heard they were implementing that policy, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s really unique; that’s a good idea honestly’ because it makes sure no one can sneak into the building,” Larkey said. “I think it’s a good idea to have identification on you at all times so you can prove that you are a student and people know you are. Even though it might be annoying, I think it’s a good policy to implement for school safety. I kind of appreciate that.”

Still, even excluding the controversial ID policy, Williams said the school has many other safety measures in place to protect students and staff.

“Exterior doors (are) locked during school hours. Buzz in door systems, Safe Visitor (system) to check adults entering the building, PowerSchool, the StopIt! app and the camera systems are all measures CHS takes to protect this school,” Williams said. “We know that our district is not immune to any type of violence so being vigilant is important. That`s why at the beginning of the year we ask the student body, ‘If you see something, say something.’ Over 80% of school shooters tell someone or communicate via social media their act of violence before it happens.”

Larkey said the efforts of the SROs in the district to protect our school from gun violence have not gone to waste.

Siri Byrisetty and Lorna Ding

“A lot of school shootings in particular are preventable,” Larkey said. “If someone sees something, I think sometimes they’re just hesitant—they don’t know where to go for help or something. I think it’s people don’t really know what to do about it.”

While Larkey said the school is putting a lot of effort into protecting us from gun violence, she said there is more to be done.

“We are doing a lot. I definitely think we are doing enough, but you know, you can never do enough; there’s always more to be done. Just informing other students about statistics about gun violence, I think, is really important,” Larkey said. “We should extend informing people about gun violence as a public health issue to middle school students and integrate that into their health curriculum.

“I think if we inform students about this at a younger age and obviously, not make it like very scary information but make it more approachable for them, I think that can reform how people think about the issue and empower them to keep their schools safe and even them as individuals can make a change in this issue.”

Along those lines, Williams said the school’s safety measures can always be improved.

Sophomore Vihaan Kottam writes a letter to Donna Schaibley, Indiana State Representative. In his letter, Kottam mentioned ways to make schools a safer place. (Siri Byrisetty)

“Any school district can always improve on their school safety. One area where CHS can improve on is making sure the school is more secure during after school activities,” Williams said. “The school district is currently looking into different avenues to make that happen.”

For his part, Vihaan Kottom, SFSL club member and sophomore, said the school could implement individualized emergency plans for each student.

“I think if each student had a personalized and confidential contingency plan assigned by the counselor for emergencies, it would make a potential school shooter affiliated with the school to have no chance of a mass shooting,” he said. “Most of the time, according to statistics, the school shooter is someone affiliated with the school meaning they’ll know the defense mechanisms the school teaches.” (According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, half of school shootings were committed by current or former students.)

Ultimately, in honor of School Day for Non-violence and Peace on Jan. 30, Larkey said she hopes people begin recognizing gun violence as a public health issue rather than as a political one.

“People may focus on political aspects of the issue rather than prevention and research around it because it is a public health issue,” Larkey said. “It’s a really widespread issue in our country and it can affect people indirectly and directly. Even if you’re not witnessing or part of a mass shooting, it can still cause, it can instill fear in communities and people. And also, of course, it can harm people’s lives and people’s families and it can affect people in that way as well.

“I think we need to change the culture around (gun violence) and make people more aware and take it more seriously. It’s not a joke, it’s not something to joke about.”