14 News Special Report: Students Speak Out | News
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE)- Two months ago on Thursday, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. killing 20 children and six staff members.
Since that day, school security has been in the spotlight and administrators, law enforcement, parents and government officials nationwide are sharing ideas about how to prevent another tragedy.
But there's another concerned group: Students.
School resource officers, lockdown procedures, security cameras and locked classrooms.
These are just a few of many safety measures already in place at several schools through the tri-state.
And as officials continue to discuss new ideas for security, students are also weighing in.
Beth Sweeney sat down with a group of local high school students to hear what they had to say and why a tragedy that happened hundreds of miles away hits so close to home.
Paducah, Columbine, Virginia Tech and for this generation, Newtown.
What happened that day at Sandy Hook Elementary School is still fresh in the minds of students here in the tri-state.
An unthinkable tragedy in a small town just like theirs.
"I was distraught," says Tirsa Spiller from Henderson County High School. "Who wouldn't be with those children?"
Elizabeth Pillow from Harrison High School says, "It's supposed to be a place where we're supposed to feel safe. And we're supposed to learn from things like that. And it's just not. I don't feel safe there any more because of everything that's happened."
When asked how many of the students were ever concerned about school security before the Newtown tragedy, no hands rose.
Every single hand was in the air after being asked about their concerns after Newtown.
Hunter Van Doorn is a senior at Castle High School where in January the school placed on lockdown after officials say a student made a threatening comment on Facebook.
"My first thought was..this is serious," says Van Doorn. "Something might be happening."
Van Doorn says each classroom door is now locked at Castle and they were prepared for this recent incident thanks to Lockdown drills.
Black Williams says they do the same thing at Henderson County High School.
"We practice lockdown drills about once every month and it really puts things into perspective," says Williams.
And while students shared safety measures already in place at their high schools, they all had ideas of what more could be done.
"We only have one door that's unlock and you have to go through the front office to get into the school," says Zach Turi from North High School.
"They lock all the doors and the only way to get in is through the front office, and you have to buzz to get in so they have you on camera," explains Jace Gentil of North Posey High School.
"My class recently talked about maybe putting gated security officers around the schools which I think is a good idea," says Williams "It would take a person with a gun a longer time to get in which could give us time."
Jayden Beshears of North High School tells us, "maybe even have officers checking people and parents before they come in to school just to check and see if they do have a weapon or anything on them that could harm themselves or anyone else."
And then the discussion of possibly arming teachers with guns:
"This was an idea proposed by my law teacher that maybe if some of the teachers in the school were armed may be some east to the students," says Van Doorn "It would provide them with ease of mind. And not just arming the teachers, but providing a class before they give them a gun so it's not such a far-fetched idea."
But Senior Jace Gentil disagrees, "I think arming a teacher is an awful idea. Putting firearms into a school, especially elementary schools," says Gentil. "I don't know about anyone else but if I walked in on the first day of school and my teacher said she had a gun, I'd feel like I was in a military state."
Students say they also have an obligation to report suspicious activity.
"If we see something going on with students or with teachers, or we see something on social media, the only way it's going to get stopped is through reporting it," says Gentil.
"I think vigilance is the answer," says Spiller. "We need to pay more attention to our peers and our surroundings at all times because many times things get reported, but administrators don't really do much to take action. I think students and teachers need to do more follow-up."
They hope to keep an open dialogue with school officials, having a voice when it comes to ideas on preventing another Newtown.
"Even though we're teenagers, we still wants to help," says Elizabeth Pillow from Harrison High School. "We want to find some way to make all of this better because it's a serious issue."
And that was certainty the sentiment of all the students who were a part of our panel.
They said they'd like to be a part of the discussion with school administrators and other community leaders when it comes to school safety.
A couple of school administrators were pleased to hear the students' ideas.
And while some may be more feasible than others, they want students to know they welcome their input.
"They come from a different perspective and a different point of view," says Steve Steiner who works for Henderson County Schools. "It's good to get their opinions. That's who we're here to work with."
Danielle Crofton, who also works for Henderson County Schools, says, "these situation are just so real. I think the worst thing to do is just push them aside and pretend like they never happen. We don't want our students to be scared. That's our responsibility as staff members is to make them feel as comfortable as possible when they go to school."
"I think we always say school safety and school security takes everyone so I think it's great that kids are thinking about it and expressing their ideas," says Brad Schneider who works with the Warrick County School Corporation. "We'll certainly look at those and consider all options when it comes to school safety."
Administrators say they meet regularly with law enforcement and community officials about school safety and involving students in those conversations is something they'll consider in the future.
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