School Safety Breaching or Barely Reaching?


Mariia Nazarenko, Staff Writer

School is one of the safest places for a student to be. Schools have a lot of security aspects that are aimed at protecting students. Although the administration is trying to protect their students, they cannot control everything that happens on school grounds. Sometimes dangerous situations can occur from which you will need to escape, hide, fight and run. No one is immune from the dangers that surround us. There were 29 shootings on school campuses in 2022.  No one wants nor needs to be in a situation where fear is implanted in their lives for even a small amount of time which leads to indefinite fear. Santiago’s school administration is trying to analyze other schools’ situations and not repeat those same mistakes.  Santiago High School does an excellent job with its safety goal. The school administration is doing everything possible to protect students from potential dangers that can happen on school grounds. Teachers and students are just some people that observe everything that happens on campus. They may see things that can undermine their confidence in feeling safe on the school campus. It is very important to ask people who study or work on school grounds for their opinion on safety. Is there anything students need to worry about concerning how safe they feel at school?

“Not all the blinds work and so it would be hard to put them down. Other than that I think we are probably safe as most schools can be. I wish there were more security guards near the parking lots. I wish there would be more so we can have one at every entrance or exit.” –Mrs. Wright

“I feel safe, I don’t feel that something is going to happen. We do have good safety procedures and we know what to do in case something will happen but I feel like it’s still super easy for someone just to come up and do something. I feel like it would be nice to have a backpack checking. It is super easy to put something in the backpack and bring it to school.” – Shadiyah Ngobi

When teachers and students have safety concerns, who should they go to?

Ms. Smith stated, “So part of that depends on where and when they’re worried about. If I was in a classroom and I was worried maybe about where or what we should do when they see something happens in the classroom I would talk to the teacher but if it’s something bigger like more how does the school protect me or I’m worried about where I park and if somebody comes on or some of those things then they probably come to me or to Dr.Torres who’s the principal”

Do we have a safety committee on campus? If a student wants to join, how can they do that?

When asked this question, Ms. Smith informed students, “We do have a Safety Committee on campus. I’m in the process of writing our new safety plan and so our safety plan involves a whole bunch of different people we have teachers that volunteer and are voted in by the teacher all the teachers to be on. I have some security that’s on it and this year I am recruiting a few students. We meet about four times a year and we continually evaluate and look at safety on our campus and we debrief like all of the lockdowns and we have a big earthquake drill that comes up every year the whole state doesn’t that and of course, we’ll have additional drills. We debrief them and see where gaps are or where areas we need to close. If a student wants to join all they need to do is come and see me. I’m happy to put anybody on who’s interested. What we might do is I’m thinking out a way to do an interesting kind of letter to the students so that they could just respond. The problem is if I get a lot of responses that we can’t have everybody, we will need to go through some other kind of way. We can also work with the teachers and their student groups and ask them if they have any volunteers or anybody who want to sit on the committee. Those are some ideas that are important and that’s one of the things that I’m working to implement this year that will stay on forever. I know students have good eyes in a lot of different things and see things in a different way that as adults we won’t see because we’re not in the same environment.”

What do you feel is the biggest way Santiago can improve school safety?

There are many things Santiago can further improve on, like many other schools, but school safety is a number one priority so Ms. Smith further stated, “So here’s the thing, you need to be trained. None of us know how to react if something happens and when it’s crazy like that you need to know what you need to do I think we can be safer if we practice more and if students are trained on what to do and where to go and how to react in certain situations. The problem with emergencies and things that happen is you don’t know how it’s going to go down and how it’s going to happen. You can’t plan for every contingency but you can plan for certain things sometimes, common sense ways of protecting yourself and the others around you. With what you have to be careful is you can’t give too much information only because some of the things that we’ve had happened with school shootings and things like that, sometimes people that know, they can do something. We can’t be as safe if someone knows too much. There’s a  fine line between too much information and yet not enough either. I think our plan here is to provide more training  so that people feel confident and that they know what to do in the event of a crisis”

What are the most recent changes that have been made to make this a safe school?

Many changes have been made throughout the school, but Ms. Smith says, “Safety is a top priority of our district and certainly our school. I can tell you that this year we have tightened up security and their rotations so they are more frequent. We have more lines in different areas at different times to provide feedback. We monitor all the locked gates, access areas ingress, and egress at our school. It’ll be easier if you only had one way in and one way out but we can’t do that so instead we monitor every area and continue to be vigilant. We’re making a concerted effort to monitor things and look for areas that we need to improve and the other thing is we have security in the front office so anybody that goes into the school today has been scanned and needs to go through a whole process so that we know who’s coming on campus. I know that’s been a little hard for some parents because they don’t have that ease of access that they had before but we appreciate how much they’re understanding that we’re trying just to make things safer and not to make them complicated”

Does our school have a current school safety policy in place? If yes, where can students go to review it?

There are numerous school safety policies as Ms. Smith confirmed, “Yes. We have a safety plan that is 100 to 180 pages long. It’s very big and in our safety plan are a million different events that could be a disaster and are addressed on how to do it. If students or teachers want to view it they can always come to me. There are certain parts of the plan that are very specific and could compromise our security. It wouldn’t be notified to the public for obvious reasons. Safety Committee and  the safety plan are aware and if anybody has any concerns or anything specific about certain events and how we take care of those and try to keep our kids safe then they can always come to me and I’d be happy to sit down and talk and show them parts about their concerns”

Are school safety drills conducted throughout the school year? If yes, what can students and parents expect from these drills?

She expresses, “During the school year, we’re going to do at least four specific drills. Generally speaking, lockdown drills it’s not only when there is a shooter at the school or whatever, sometimes something is going on on the perimeter, so we’ll call a lockdown. Nobody will be on our campus but the potential is could come on our campus and so then the perimeter is all locked down and we’re locked down. We’re going to run quite a few lockdown drills. The Lockdown drill is probably the most frequent because it encompasses so many different things. Then the earthquake drill that we have every year and then the typical fire drill and those evacuation drills. Teachers will lead you to where you go for an hour so we can make the whole process. Earthquakes are pretty much about an hour to act out. We run different scenarios when people are trapped in classrooms and things like that so we can know how to act. Those are pretty much all types of drills. There’s going to be a minimum of 4 and they’re not going to be announced. We worry about the time when something happens and it’s not as surly going to be when you’re in class. We would practice a drill when you are not prepared during lunchtime.  We will always let parents know. We won’t let them know the exact time but we’ll say you know what we’re going to be doing a drill today or whatever and only because we want to make people surprise.”

In the event of an actual emergency, how are students evacuated from the building?

“Evacuation happens under certain types of disasters. When we find out, then they’re called out. Once we go into a lockdown or an imminent threat or danger on campus then immediately at the same time the police officers are called and then the police take over because they’re more equipped to deal with all that stuff. We will work alongside them but once we figure out with this threat is then we know. Evacuation is not good in a school shooting but you know like an earthquake or some kind of something that is maybe a fire here or something along those lines evacuation is good. I think the part is being able to tell what the thing is and then knowing when to call the right evacuation drill”

The school police officer commented, “My role on campus is to provide safety for students, staff, and teachers. I’m also here to investigate any crime between students and teachers and also to be a role model to students who need it. We’ve been looking down more on who’s out, if there’s someone that we think shouldn’t be here or a little too old to be on campus, we ask them questions and make sure that everyone on campus is people who need to be on campus. All parents who come on campus have to check in at the front desk. First, they get their ID scanned so we can make sure there is no one with a bad criminal history and sex registration for anybody on campus that shouldn’t be on campus. We’re also practicing lockdown drills just to make sure that students and staff know what to do in case of an emergency and then also the police department has done active shooter drills. We are trained so if there’s an active shooter on any of the campuses throughout the Corona-Norco School District we’re prepared and we know how to handle it. We know what steps to take so we can keep everyone safe.”

To sum it all up, our school has good safety guidelines. Everyone on campus knows what to do if something happens. We have trained specialists who will protect us from any danger. Our school is always improving and trying to be better and safer. Teachers and students feel very safe on campus Yes they have their suggestions on how to make this school a safer place, but they all agree on the statement that our school is a very safe space. What do you think about our school safety?