Parents and students talk with the Mail Tribune and KTVL News 10 about how school shootings have heightened their awareness of school security as part of a joint three-day project, Teach and Protect. Simone Stewart is the mother of a junior at North Medford High School; Isabella Ash is a junior at Ashland High School; Ethan Frank is a freshman at North Medford; and Matthew Frank, his father, also has children in Medford elementary and middle schools.
The full discussion will air in a special KTVL News 10 report at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18. Here are a few excerpts. They’ve been edited for brevity.
Q: How much do you think about school safety?
Simone: Every day. I work at Southern Oregon University, so I think about it every day, not just for my child but I think about it for myself. And a lot of that is because we have been trained at SOU to handle active-shooter response. We’ve had ALICE training, which the (Medford) schools are now implementing for all staff, which is a good thing, but it does keep you thinking about it. Every time I walk into a different building on campus, I’m always thinking about where’s the best place to hide or to go, or where’s a fire extinguisher I can throw at a shooter. It really changes how you think about how you move about your day at work or at school.
Matthew: I agree. A lot of what we see today is a result of all of the several events that have happened in the past. No threat is taken lightly anymore, which number one is sad, but also, you know, we’re realistic. I’ve seen a lot of things that you kind of talked about, infrastructure changes ... some schools the old model was this kind of open-air school that you walk in and there’s open hallways. Those are going away. I know St. Mary’s has done a lot of work to close their campus. Hoover Elementary, that’s another one.
So, yeah, it’s in the forefront of my mind. Even having those few moments if there was an active-shooter situation, those few moments that the infrastructure changes they’ve made — if I go to the school, I can’t get into the school now, you have to ring a button and they have to open the door. It’s not very institutionalized-looking. I mean, you’re not sending your child to a prison-like environment, but it does give that locked environment that, if there was a situation, they could have those one or two minutes to do something that could make a huge difference.
Isabella: I think about it quite a bit. I’m a pretty anxious and paranoid person, and I think about that and I think about where I’m sitting in the classroom — would it be better for me to just run or would it be better for me to do something? There’s a filing cabinet in the classroom — if I knock that over, that could, you know, put a barrier on the door or something. I do think about it way more than I used to, or think that I should have to.
Ethan: I usually don’t think about it too much, ’cause I’m obviously just trying to think about sports, grades, see like what I can do all the time, but whenever I do realize it, I usually try to focus on it during lockdown drills or fire drills, ’cause then we’re doing the drills. I’m thinking, maybe this is definitely a good time to see, hey, what would be the best way to make sure everybody can get out safe and what I need to do to help.
Q: What kind of emergency drills are happening in your schools that maybe didn’t necessarily happen when you were in elementary school?
Isabella: One thing that’s changed is the fire drills are actually — now you stay and lock the classroom and stay in the classroom until you were told to evacuate … and there’s the lockdown and lockouts where if somebody’s on campus, you shut all the classrooms and everybody stays inside, or if there’s like a (robbery) or something somewhere else, everybody stays inside, or everyone evacuates and walks to Lincoln and walks to the grove or something to get off campus. But, yeah, the fire drill one has been really weird to think about.
Ethan: We’ve had two (drills) so far. One was the fire drill and one was the earthquake drill. We have four types of drills that we usually do: the fire drill, earthquake, lockout, which is usually just for the teachers, ’cause then the students just keep working, and then the lockdown, which involves everybody, and everybody finds a hiding spot and turns off the lights and just keeps quiet until the shooter would be out.
Q: And does it seem like, for the most part, students take it seriously?
Ethan: There have been a few times when, during the lockdown, people giggle and laugh, but the last time that happened I believe it was in fifth grade. Just a bunch of little kids being kids.