Recently, many security risks have occurred at our school and throughout Montgomery County. Since the ongoing Israel-Hamas crisis and Montgomery County (MOCO) security threats, many students have felt unsafe. On Monday, Oct. 23, a WJ student was caught in possession of a gun, jeopardizing the security of our school. This is the first time a threat of this level has occurred on campus since the bomb threat in 2018. Despite measures to improve security, including the ID system and more police presence in schools, it has become apparent that the Montgomery County security systems are seriously flawed.
Since Oct. 23, some students have reported feeling unsafe, having recognized the ineffectiveness of the security system. Although the perpetrator was caught, that may not happen if the school experiences another threat. Relying on word of mouth worked this time, but relying on it solely seems faulty, especially with the lack of communication between administration, security and students. Most students are unaware of the security systems in place and resources to report suspicious activity, resulting in uninformed and underprepared students.
The hard truth is there is really no way to make the school 100% safe. No matter what safety measures we take, there is always someone who would be one step ahead. However, there are improvements that could make the school safer.
The ideal solution to prevent firearms and other weapons from entering the school is installing metal detectors at each entrance. Unfortunately, this option is unrealistic, as the school has several entrances to cover. They would also disrupt the flow of students entering and exiting the school, and they would take far too long to approve, order and install. Although metal detectors are probably out of the question for the near future, there are several more accessible and timely steps we should take to ensure the safety of our students.
“I think we need to heighten security by reviewing and revising security protocols and setting up a system where students can submit anonymous suggestions or complaints,” sophomore Anna Jhon said.
Last year, the administration implemented an ID-checking system to prevent unauthorized personnel from entering the building, namely possible shooters. However, the incident on Oct. 23 was caused by a student, meaning they had an ID and could get into the school easily. If threats like these can come from inside the school, then the ID system cannot be our only form of security.
Besides, enforcement of the ID system has been insufficient, considering students only need to flash anything that resembles an ID to be able to enter the school.
“[The security guards] don’t even look at the names on the IDs. I’ve seen people at the football games be allowed in with [just] a green ID – they don’t actually look at your name or who you are,” junior Marina Preslopsky said.
Regardless, the ID system cannot protect us from in-school threats like the event on Oct. 23. This is where proper security would come in. However, despite our plethora of security guards, none of them are properly equipped to face threats like shooters. If they had some sort of weapon, like batons or tasers, they would be better prepared to protect our students. Of course, it’s a fine line to walk, because while it is important that our security guards are trained and prepared, they also cannot have weapons like firearms in order to prevent students from feeling unsafe.
In May 2022, MCPS altered its policy to bring back police, known as Community Engagement Officers (CEOs), in a limited form in hopes of heightening the security at school. While this is a great way to make the school more secure and ensure we have the resources to combat threats, Shate Jackson, our CEO, rarely spends time inside the school and mainly patrols the exterior of the school. Additionally, a singular CEO cannot cover the vast campus or the 3,000 students occupying it. If students can’t make it across school during the five-minute transitions, then Jackson can’t possibly supervise the entire school alone. If something were to happen on the other side of the school, she would not get to the site on time.
“It’s one police officer for such a huge and crowded school. I personally think that because of that, it’s sort of this ‘more…students and less teachers’ thing, which means that students feel like they can get away with stuff,” senior Raphael Salamon said.
Although it’s scary to think about, it’s time to face the facts. Our school is not the safe haven we thought it was, and something needs to be done about it. The current system clearly is not working, and measures need to be taken to fix it in order to make our students safer.