In the Wake of Tragedy: Could It Happen Here?
Our nation’s second-worst school shooting took place on December 14, 2012 when 20-year-old Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. When the shots began at approximately 9:30 a.m., teachers and their students sought refuge in nearby bathrooms and closets. Nearly twenty minutes later, authorities arrived on the scene and immediately pronounced 20 students and six faculty dead. All 20 students killed were between the ages of six and seven.
“My first reaction was disbelief,” Megan Retana ‘15 said. “It seemed so impossible and so distant from me. It hit me when I saw the pictures and names of everyone that was killed.”
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, schools around the country have begun reexamining their security procedures and policies. Deerfield Academy students reflected on the effects of this event on their lives.
“I feel safe here, but everywhere is safe until it isn’t. I guess that is how the people in Newtown must have felt,” said Sarah Jinich ‘15.
“I feel extremely safe at Deerfield,” said Matt Morrow, ‘15. “I do not think Deerfield should increase security. This security would just hurt the community at Deerfield by making students afraid or not as welcome.”
While many students agreed that they feel safe at Deerfield, several mentioned areas in which security could be improved. “The dorms are locked only after curfew. Maybe we can make our dorms safer by having to use our Greer card in order to get in,” suggested Retana.
In the event of a security announcement during the school day, Julie Harris ‘13 said, “I know we have the cell phone notification thing, but we are not supposed to see our phones during the day, and we could have no idea what’s going on.”
At the beginning of the school year, Sandy Hook had installed a new security system in which visitors needed to be buzzed in. However, Lanza used artillery to break a lock, circumventing the system.
“As far as I know, an armed lunatic would be able to do significant damage to the Deerfield community before they could be stopped. Otherwise we could always hire armed security guards, but beyond that I really have a hard time seeing what we could do should a heavily armed person come to our campus,” said William Montgomery ‘13.
Although attempting to secure Deerfield’s wide-open campus might prove costly and ineffective, practicing evacuations and lockdowns could make the difference in an emergency.
Mr. David Gendron, Director of Safety and Security presented new lock dorm procedures to the student body. Deerfield Chief of Police John Paciorek, formerly of the FBI, assured the community of town support.
“We as a school haven’t practiced emergency evacuations that I think are really important in the case something happened. Every other school that I have been to has done this,” Retana said.
“We’re planning some table top exercises with Senior Staff before the end of the year,” Mr. John Taylor, Dean of Faculty said. “With the help of experts, we were asked to respond to different high-risk scenarios in case we ever need to make difficult decisions in a life-threatening situation.”
The shooting in Sandy Hook also reignited America’s debate surrounding gun control. “People cry out for gun control as if that’s the only issue as most massacres are committed with guns. But that is far too simplistic and naïve to presume that this alone will reduce the number of massacres around the country,” Montgomery said.
Several teachers store weapons in campus housing. The school’s official policy on weapons is: “With the exception of those held by police and other authorized personnel with explicit permission from the Director of Safety and Security all weapons, including but not limited to, firearms and ammunition, BB guns and pellet guns, are prohibited on the Deerfield Academy campus. This prohibition extends to the school grounds and to all school-owned buildings, including faculty dormitory and non-dormitory housing.”
“If they use the gun for the right reasons, they should be able to own a gun,” Camille Moeckel ‘16 said.
“In fact I could see the beneficial effects of more teachers having guns on campus and even a few being armed at most times,” Montgomery said.
When there are Hostile Intruders…
• Lock yourself in your dorm room or classroom.
• If communication is available, call 911—make sure to keep your phone on vibrate.
• Do not sound the fire alarm.
• Lock windows and close blinds or curtains and stay away from the windows.
• Turn off lights and all audio equipment.
• Keep everyone together.
• If caught in open space, you must decide what you are going to do:
- You can try to hide, but make sure it is a well hidden space.
- If you decide to run, do not run in a straight line.
- Play dead if other victims are around you.
- Your last option is to fight back.
- If you are caught by the intruder and are not go-ing to fight back, obey all commands and don’t look the intruder in the eyes.
Taken from the Emergency Procedures Manual, by David R. Gendron.