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February 28, 2024

Safe or sorry?

Safe+or+sorry%3F

Getting into Paso High’s new safety policies and their effectiveness

Within the last few years, our high school has seen some drastic changes. 

Within my high school career I’ve seen property damage such as tagging, etching, egging, and more. I’ve seen countless fights, protests gone riotous, drug use, lockdowns, and sexual harassment. These past years have been spent in fear as the number of school shootings over the nation sky rocket, vape related health issues rise, and on-campus violence intensifies with each occurance. 

The tension the 2019 school year brought has already started to boil over and school admin have been rushing to patch each new development. Yet, with each resolution, new problems arise. In 2018, there was a lockdown due to a false threat of weapon presence on campus. The following year a student posted to their SnapChat story a picture of an AR-15 and a warning to not attend school. In response to these affairs, among others, the school built a gate around the inner perimeter of the already closed-campus. As for recent developments, six new and needed policies were implemented: restricted restroom access during instructional time, alarms added to the gates, increased surveillance, student and visitor entry through the main office, parking contracts and towing, and the Academic Re-engagement Center, which is responsible for corrective interventions and supports.

The 1000’s building has, in the past, been a hotspot for troublesome activity. Vaping in the bathrooms and leaving mysterious powdered substances all over are examples of troublesome incidents from 2016 and 2017. In the 2018/2019 school year, a fire extinguisher was taken and diffused on the top floor. The culprits were discovered once a warrant was posted by a teacher in the building offering a reward. Other risk factors are a flaw in the design of the building. Beams exposed above the stairwells do little to stop one from climbing over the guard railing to walk on them. 

 “On quite a few occasions over the years I have caught students walking on the beams which are 20 or 30 feet above the floor. A fall from that height could be lethal,” said English teacher Sean Pierce. As a result of these problems, the 1000’s building is now blocked off during breaks and after school unless a teacher or administrator is present.

Along with staff and some students, I share the understanding as to why admin is restricting bathroom usage; they’re doing this for the well being of students’ health and education. 

“I’m about 20 feet away from the bathrooms [in the 1000’s building] and those being locked during class time requires my kids not to walk 20 or 30 feet, but across to the four hundreds or the gym. They have to go quite a bit farther to use the bathroom than they did before,” said Pierce, “but I understand that it’s kind of an overall strategy. If it reduces the number of incidents, I’m all for it.”

Pierce leans comically over the railing which separates students from the exposed beams in the 1000’s building.

 

 

Still, the availability, or lack thereof, of bathrooms limits students ability to “take care of business,” not to mention the foul smell emitting from the only bathrooms open during  class in the 400 building area. 

“The new bathroom policies are a little irritating because I can’t always get to the restroom when I need to use it,” said senior Alexa Angeles, “I have been late a few times to some of my classes due to long bathroom lines and the bathroom being too far away.” 

The new bathroom schedule is posted on each of the restrooms’ doors.

On top of managing the new conditions for school safety, staff involvement with more serious events taking place on campus could be out of reach. A fight that broke out on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2019 among two students, allegedly due to racial slurs being said, shows the need for the multiplying security factors. Arrests were made after the denaturing of the initial fight when students began running across campus towards the 100’s building on the opposite side. According to a witness, a teacher, the group looked confused as if they were waiting for something to happen. Then came the officer on a motorcycle and suddenly chaos broke loose as kids were being grabbed for the disturbance they caused. 

Although I agree with the standards of the new safety policies, taking into account the campus that day was already equipped with added security from a police presence, the situation should have been handled with better precision.

“The new policies and the enforcement of existing policies are quite frankly overdue,” said Dan Sharon, who oversees the security team. “[They] have reduced off campus violations and unauthorized departure from campus and have greatly reduced discipline infractions related to violations in restrooms and parking lots.” 

The measures being taken are not only to ensure the safety of students but to maintain a positive school atmosphere without illegal or consequential inhibitions. Allowing detrimental endeavors to plummet the quality of learning in a safe, clean environment is not a way to prepare our nation’s future. 

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