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The Conundrum that is Campus Safety

Our school is situated in a very safe area. Lockdowns are not a common issue, but this one was handled effectively.

An invincible campus? / malvernprep.org
An invincible campus? / malvernprep.org

This lockdown was the first true lockdown we have had in recent memory. Judging by the tension of the voices on the intercom, I knew it wasn’t a drill. Somehow, I was not afraid.

Right in the middle of an Economics test, we got the message, and we all huddled against the wall at the front of the room. Lights were out, windows were blocked, and nobody talked.  For a moment, time seemed to stand still as we anticipated change.

“No one was in danger” was the message of Fr. Flynn’s speech. The “gunman” was in the woods on Malvern Prep’s property, doing some target practice. Like many students of Malvern Prep, I am not sure if he unwittingly trespassed onto Malvern’s campus, without considering how much land is owned by Malvern. I was also not alone in being unsure about whether or not they intended to cause such a commotion. The only facts we were given, which were also confirmed by local news media as the day went on, were that there were two men with firearms in the woods by Malvern. For some, this whole situation could have seemed to be a bit reactionary.

And yet, this was the best way it could have worked out. The security team was quick to respond to the immediate reports of men with firearms on campus. The gunshots following the reports were all the evidence needed to legitimize such reports. We may not have known if the perpetrator was a threat to any of the students here, but the security team was not willing to take any chances.

From my perspective, the whole thing was handled so efficiently that it seemed just like a drill. This was a great demonstration of how safe we are on campus, and it was only possible because of our security team’s responsiveness to a possible threat.

Where we are is one of the reasons that security is not much of a problem. Since this is the first lockdown that we’ve had in a while, with no other situations like it occurring during both Mr. Dougherty’s and Mr. LeStrange’s time here, it is safe to say that where we are located is, well, safe. As one could imagine, the same can’t be said about inner city schools in Philadelphia.  Even if the FBI says that gun violence in schools has been declining since 1993, guns are not that necessary for people to still commit crimes in schools. According to a 2011 Philadelphia Inquirer report, there were over 4000 cases of violence in Philly’s schools between 2009 and 2010. Nine out of every ten schools had reports of violent crimes, and 3/4 of those schools reported that that had been at least one teacher assaulted in those cases.

It is difficult to compare what we went through on October 23 to what many kids in Philadelphia face every day. We are truly blessed with not having to walk through metal detectors once we get on campus. It was such a shock to me last year when my service group went to the fortified supermarket during Urban Challenge. As someone who has lived comfortably in the rural outskirts of Philly, such a feeling of tension was not familiar to me. I cannot imagine having to feel the same way in the place where I am supposed to be learning.

Even with our consistent history of safety, our school is still not invulnerable to future incidents. Our school’s security system is already very effective, yet there are always ways to improve something. One possibility is using a key card system like the one used at Villa Maria Academy. In my meetings with Mr. Dougherty and Mr. LeStrange, I discovered that it has been considered before, but it would be an expensive endeavor for both the staff and the students. Whether it happens now or later is the real question, and so far, it remains unanswered.

For nearly all of my time at Malvern, we have only had to do drills, and I am sure a lot of us have found them inconvenient at times. The real lockdown interrupted the tests of many students in Malvern, cancelling some but also taking away time from others. Although some people were negatively affected by this, I believe that convenience is something we may have to sacrifice if we hope for any security.

Thankfully, Malvern is in a position that gives it some leeway in regards to this. There are not any urgent choices that need to be made in the near future. Malvern Prep is a school that is very much free from danger, thanks to the people running and maintaining it. As I said before, we aren’t invincible, but our system can always improve and get closer to perfection.

 

About Jake Sorensen

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