Take measures to make schools safer in S. Florida
Run to the door. Double check that it’s locked. Pull the shade down. Turn off the lights. Shove your petrified students into one small corner of the room. Andwait.
Wait for reprieve? Wait for the sound of gunshots to ring out down the hallway? You’re not sure. The only thing you knowis that 10 minutes ago youwere teaching essay structure and nowyou’re huddled in a corner in the darkness with 32 ninth-graders. You listen to your own breathing and their muffled sobs, wondering if this is howyou’ll spend the last 10 minutes of your life. You hear yourself whisper, “Listen, no matter what youmay hear in the next few minutes, you have to try not to scream.”
This is life in the American classroom, even in beautiful Boca Raton. Thiswas life recently, whenwe flew into a code red and thewoman on the PA system said with a shaking voice, “This is not a drill.” Itwas life today and yesterday, as an unknown person sent text messages and posted on Instagram amessage implying theywould carry out a school shooting. Even though no onewas injured in either event, and thoughmy administrators do all they can to keep us safe, we live in aworld where for many, the ringing out of gunshots down a school hallway is the last sound they’ll ever hear.
I do not posit to knowthe solution to America’s mass shooting epidemic, whether it be gun control laws, better mental health care resources, or another answer. However, I do knowwhat is not being done— and what could be done better— in Palm Beach County.
As a teacher, it concerns me that the doors at my school only lock only fromthe outside, meaning in a shooter situation, if a door isn’t locked, a teacher must open his or her door to make sure students are secure. This is a huge safety issue, and could be easily fixed by the maintenance staff that is already in place. Ifwe simply replace the locks so they can also be locked internally, wewould reduce the risk should a shooting occur.
In addition, overcrowding of Palm Beach County schools contributes to potential risk. My second hour class has 32 students and 26 desks; this is an epidemic district-wide. Having students sitting in the aisles and on the floor poses an enormous risk in the eventwe should need to evacuate. God forbid our students, like so many students before them, should have to run. Theywould be trampling each other to get through the door, causing congestion and more opportunity for a shooter to strike.
These simple fixes are ignored by the district. Though I can sadly do little to prevent a school shooting, I can usemy voice to draw attention to these issues. Perhaps these things seem like small issues now, but should tragedy strike they will become horrific, life-altering issues, and it will be too little, too late.
Marybeth Bauer is a resident of Coconut Creek and an English teacher at Boca Raton CommunityHigh School.