In wake of school shootings, new security measures aim to keep students safe


Arthur Siqueira

Concerns about school safety have led Watkins Mill High School to add increased security measures this year.

Charisse Warfield, Nadaja Burnett, and Jubilee Robinson

Last year, two major school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas sparked a national push for school safety laws.

But what is Watkins Mill doing to prevent danger and protect the school against attacks?

Currently, the most prominent form of protection is something we are all used to: lockdown drills. In addition to the five fire drills required every year, Montgomery County Public Schools also requires six emergency drills. This includes lockdown, shelter in place, weather and reverse evacuation.

But this year, Watkins Mill is exercising a specific drill for the event of an active shooter in the building. The date has not been decided yet. “This year will be the first year we’re doing an active shooter drill,” principal Carol Goddard said. Unlike lockdown drills, “we will have options now,” Goddard added.

Additionally beginning in January, students and staff will all be required to wear their school IDs, so intruders can be easily identified. Administration wants students to be “mindful and aware that the safety of their surroundings is really tampered with when they prop a door open or let someone in that doesn’t go to school here,” school business administrator Julia Broyles said.

The IDs have come about because we have certain people in the building that we do not know,” Goddard added.

In addition to the IDs, the main office has installed a new scanning system. Visitors must enter through one door and scan an official identification card. This machine scans their names and photos and shows their status as a sex offender. An alarm will go off and alert the main office staff if a registered sex offender tries to enter the building.

Staff members go through rigorous training to deal with safety situations. “We have all been trained for a lot of [situations] including [shootings],” English teacher Sam Lee said. “Beyond that, it’s very difficult to prepare for something this spontaneous. I think that the school has done the best that they can.”

MCPS is working hard to ensure that students and staff are kept safe at all times and that safety will always be the number-one priority. But facilities can only truly be safe as long as staff and students are on the same page and take the same safety considerations.

“We just want everybody to be aware and mindful that for this to be a safe environment, we all have to work together to make it that way,” Broyles said.

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