New security awaits returning students in Fla.
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida returned to a more secure campus on Wednesday as they began their first new school year since a gunman killed 17 people in the freshman building, said an article by The Associated Press.
But some say they still won’t feel protected despite $6.5 million in security enhancements, including 18 safety monitors, new classroom locks and upgraded video surveillance.
The AP said all the students wore lanyards with IDs around their necks as they walked past a heavy police presence, in what has become their new normal. Volunteers greeted them with German shepherds, and a helicopter hovered overhead as a throng of media watched from across the street.
Samantha Deitsch, 15, said she’s grateful for the changes, but “there’s literally no place that I am every day that I feel 100 percent safe.”
At Stoneman Douglas, the tributes to victims have been removed, replaced with a single statue of an eagle hugging a heart. But the freshman building still stands as a solemn reminder of the bloodshed, surrounded by a permanent new fence as prosecutors continue to use the crime scene for their legal case. The classes it once held have been diverted to nearly three dozen new portable classrooms.
Aria Siccone, 15, was there during the Valentine’s Day rampage. She watched one of her classmates pounding on the classroom door, trying to flee the shooter and remains haunted by his terror-stricken face moments before he was gunned down. The gunshots started shortly after he knocked and they couldn’t let him in. When a SWAT team later led her out of the building, she saw bodies in the hallway.
“I am happy to be able to see all of my friends, but I have been very anxious about returning to school,” she told Kelli Kennedy of the AP. “I’m scared of being at any school, not only Douglas, because I feel unsafe no matter how much security we have.”
As these students head back to the building where the most horrific act of their lives took place, many of them probably have hesitations, and deservedly so. And although six months have passed since the Feb. 14 attack, these students will likely spend the rest of their lives trying to adjust — trying to get the images from that day out of their head when they lie down at night. We owe it to them as a country to not let this incident get swept under the rug like so many others. The men and women who are able to create policies to keep our children safe need to step up and do so, before more of our young people are senselessly taken from us.
The safety measures put in place are a good start — but we as adults need to show these children that we are, in fact, listening.