Oak Ridge Media

Are You Safe?

Students Express Safety Concerns

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Security officer Richard Febo responds to a fight that occurred during sixth period in late February.

Security officer Richard Febo responds to a fight that occurred during sixth period in late February.

Security officer Richard Febo responds to a fight that occurred during sixth period in late February.

Channai Williams, Editor in Chief

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In the wake of a mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, students at Oak Ridge say they have concerns about their safety, and Principal Jennifer Bellinger plans to host an event as early as next Friday to talk about campus safety. Meanwhile, students are pointing to specific security concerns that they feel the school district has overlooked for far too long.

Junior Jade Littrell said she has concerns about the school’s intercom system, which has not been working properly on some parts of the campus. In some classrooms, students cannot hear any intercom announcements. Thus, if a code red or another emergency procedure was announced, students in some classrooms would not hear the information.

“It’s inconvenient because if they make an important announcement or someone needs to report somewhere they won’t know unless we open a window. Plus, if a school shooter comes on campus, administrators won’t have time to come over to every classroom and tell us to get down,” said Littrell, who feels the non-working intercom system might result in a much higher number of students in harm’s way.

Senior Kainthia Delcasse said, “It’s kind of aggravating and scary that you can’t hear. Whether it is a drill or it is real, we need to be able to get important information. It could be vital.”

Another student concern is security from outsiders. While there is a guard stationed at the main entrance on Oak Ridge Road, a large gap in the fence at the corner of Oak Ridge Road and Winegard Road has been an ongoing issue since the campus was rebuilt six years ago. Students regularly use the gap, created because, presumably, a student damaged the fence by removing some of the fence posts, to enter and exit campus.

“That makes me a little nervous that they don’t take the fact people leave campus seriously, the deans know, administrator knows why aren’t we doing anything about it,” junior Anthony Phagoo said.

“Tell the students to stop tearing the fence down,” Principal Jennifer Bellinger said of the problem. She and other administrators have had workers make repairs to the damaged fence only to have a student reopen the hole or make a new one.

Junior Jackie Alvarez said, “It’s pretty unsafe and students keep breaking the fence. It could allow someone with ill intentions to have access to our campus.”

Students also have concerns about the back staircases for the 400 and 600 buildings. These staircases are used for evacuations, and some students feel the stairways are insufficient to allow for a quick exit.

“The back stairs are narrow. There’s no doubt about that. There are too many students going out the back stairs due to the (student population increases) every year,” junior Widline Senatus said.

Sophomore Joseph Sookram said, “The school is way too open. Security isn’t as strong as it should be…I don’t feel it’s very safe, especially for those on the 3rd floor.”

Another issue brought up by students during a roundtable discussion was that the athletic field areas are easy to access and security is light at most times. Some students say that anyone can walk out and sit in the bleachers all day without being spotted or noticed. There are sweeps done daily of the athletic fields areas.

One student said that he and his friends were able to skip in the athletic fields for a few class periods unnoticed.

The school has three armed security officers on campus along with two behavior monitors and multiple deans and others who pitch in to help with school security and disciplinary matters. However, in light of recent school shootings, some question whether it’s enough to make a real difference.

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Are You Safe?