Palos Verdes Continues to Prepare for Any Potential Threats
March 1, 2018
This year Valentine’s Day shattered everyone’s hearts when the joyous holiday took a disastrous turn.
On February 14 in Parkland, Florida, nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire on the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. As one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history, the shooter left a total of 17 dead. These courageous victims ranged from young freshmen to beloved teachers.
The terror and despair that arose from this act of violence continues to follow not only those directly affiliated by this tragedy, but also millions of students and staff members of schools around the world.
Among these internationally affected and touched schools is Palos Verdes High School.
Immediately following the mass shooting, a great number of students at PV High recalled feeling uncomfortable or unsafe in their classrooms, while some teachers felt the need to address safety concerns.
On the whole, these concerns raised the question of whether or not PV High is prepared for a school shooting itself.
An essential issue that people consider when taking school shootings into consideration is the vulnerability that the open campus of PVHS allows. Although this allows for students to easily find an escape route from the school, it gives potential attackers more access to the school.
Sophomore Olivia Spaulding addressed the idea of a school shooting and said, “I have never had a rational fear of it… but definitely after the shooting, I looked around, saw how open our campus is, and thought ‘Wow this can really happen anywhere.’ And until we do something to change this, we never know.”
PVHS Principal Dr. Charles Park stated, “I think our biggest worry is that without a fence, people can come in and out of our campus at any given point, which can be difficult to control, but is also an advantage because it allows us to flee from the situation faster.”
The current response to a school shooting at PVHS with the police department is, according to Dr. Park, “less than two minutes and we have a strong relationship with them, so that is very reassuring.”
Furthermore, Chief of the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department (PVEPD) Mark Velez said, “Last year during the summer, there was a report of an active shooter on campus and it took forty seconds to get us here.”
“When we got here, we were in really close communication with Charles Park, and had him on the phone within a minute. Within two minutes we had everything settled and it was really a false alarm, the caller had been mistaken,” Velez continued.
Dr. Park also described the measures to ensure powerful security around campus, which include “twenty security cameras that point outward and act as a sort of invisible fence line to see who is coming in and out. Our windows, not all of them have covers, so we actually purchased enough to cover as many windows as possible.”
Following the event, a few teachers felt the need to discuss and analyze the recent tragedy to improve the security on our very own campus.
Dance, physical education, and yoga teacher Kathleen Mastan gave advice to her students on safety precautions in similar situations.
“I wanted to remind my students of what we need to do in the case that there is an active shooter on campus . . . in the locker room, we need to make sure we use all of lock blocks and that people do not leave the locker room open because that would be a very safe place in a dangerous situation,” said Mastan.
While some people are focusing on the prevalent reaction of a school shooting at PVHS, others, in retrospect, are looking at how a shooting can be avoided.
Nowadays, with technology being a major form of communication for students, social media is being closely monitored in the case of any threat of violence.
Chief Velez explained, “It is possible that something could happen here, sure. However we take everything seriously and monitor social media closely to prevent danger.”
In addition, Mastan said, “One other really important thing that students need to be aware of is if they ever see something on social media or overhear a conversation that sounds threatening, do not take it as a joke. Let someone else evaluate that, it is important for us to gather as much information as possible.”
Just as faculty and the PVEPD recently took the precaution of tracking social media for red flags, administration and faculty are making changes to improve the response to a school shooting.
Associate Principal Keely Hafer said, “As a staff we have practiced drills and have another training coming up in March to support our staff in being prepared in case of an emergency like this. We will continue to reflect on our safety procedures and communicate to staff and students what our protocol is in events like this so that everyone can be prepared.”
The procedure the school originally had, consisting of only a lockdown, is being reassessed.
“We actually have a vendor, a company that specializes on lockdown drills for schools.They are coming in on March 21 to train our staff and will be working with our police department,” said Dr. Park.
Local police departments have already been training on campus.
“I know that our police department and Torrance PD actually did two different trainings at night time with blank rounds. I observed it and was part of the training, and the reason why they conducted that was because they wanted to know their entry points and their resolution procedures,” said Dr. Park.
The PVEPD is constantly searching for more advanced methods of confronting school shootings, especially in response from the ripple of fear that the shooting created.
“We are at a pretty good place right now, but we take the shootings that do happen and critique every new trend in shootings and see what to prepare for,” Chief Velez said.
“Any new shooting that happens we analyze it and pick it apart, and try to improve our plan.”
Though this act of violence appalled and terrified schools around the nation, it has inspired the minds of many, especially faculty and driven students at PVHS, to prepare in the case of a shooting and to make students feel secure in their surroundings while receiving an education.
Furthermore, this horrifying event has unified the PV community to take as many precautions as possible to prevent a tragedy from ever occurring on our campus.