As 2017 comes to a close, a painful stain will remain upon its legacy: mass shootings, some of which occur in schools. According to NPR, there have been 160 school shootings since that of Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. One of the most recent mass shootings occurred around Rancho Tehama Elementary School in Northern California; however, though no students died, the gunman did attempt to enter the school, but failed due to teachers’ efficient abidance to lockdown procedures.
In the case of school shootings, proactive training and precautions on behalf of the school administration can prove to be life-saving. Though the risk of ever having to implement these safety procedures is unlikely, the Casady administration strives to maintain a safe environment on campus, whether it be among peers or large-scale protection from intruders. I reached out to Mr. Bonfiglio, Director of Operations (and renowned Moon Pie enthusiast), to learn more about what safety measures Casady implements everyday and how administration strives to maintain a protected but positive feeling in the school.
Q: What security measures does Casady currently take to protect from intruders/gunmen?
Mr. Bonfiglio: We take an “all hazards” approach to School Safety. We are constantly evaluating and improving our physical plant, personnel, education, and technology. For example, we look at our perimeter fencing frequently and improve accordingly, we’ve installed speed bumps for traffic safety, we’ve created a Campus Security Office complete with technology for observation and evaluation, we’ve hired law enforcement to augment our Security Officers, we’ve instituted dedicated safety drill weeks twice a year to practice and create awareness, and we’ve created a Safety Committee comprised faculty/staff campus wide to address many topics, such as intruder. Our teachers also have the school safety manual on their phones for easy access to information that is helpful during an emergency or crisis.
Q: Has security heightened recently, or did administration view this as unnecessary?
We do have a safe campus; it is extremely rare for us to have incidents where our community is harmed. Yes, we have increased our security personnel by adding another law enforcement officer and one additional security officer for our recent incident. This gives us an opportunity to evaluate this measure and to better understand the needs of our community as we determine our “sweet spot” in terms of personnel. Remember that we are a PreK-12 school, and the processes on how to make people feel safe may be different in each Division. I never look at any security measure as unnecessary; it is a constantly evolving situation where we are evaluating and adjusting the things we have in place for a safe community. What we did last year, may no longer be relevant or wise to do because our needs have changed.
Q: With recent school and mass shootings, how can students maintain an alert and safe environment without fostering fear and paranoia?
Fear and anxiety are normal reactions if one hears about mass shootings. If a student is fearful about anything while on campus, I would recommend that they reach out to a trusted adult, such as a teacher, administrator, school psychologist, or clergy to express those feelings. I find it sometimes helpful to keep things in perspective and focus on good things. While we should always remain vigilant and never be complacent, active shooter events, percentage wise, are extremely rare. The odds are we will never experience such an event and Casady School is a very safe haven for our community; we do have many resources on campus to keep us safe. That being said, being familiar with one’s surroundings and preparation are good ways to dial down anxiety and paranoia. That is a reason why we do our safety drills twice a year and every year.
Q: How, as an administration, do you maintain balance with your safety measures? In other words, how do you make sure safety precautions aren’t too lax, but not to extreme?
Observation and listening are good ways to determine whether our school is serving the needs of our community. Our school wide “Safety Committee” comprised of faculty/staff allow us to collaborate about areas that are important in their part of the world and the school at large. We are constantly evaluating where we are and where we think we need to go. The time to collaborate and reflect on our current and future needs is a good way to make sure what we have in place is serving our needs.
Q: What can students do to ensure their individual safety on campus?
Awareness. Be mindful of those things around you and communicate. “See something, Say something.” It truly takes a team effort where a community can support each other. We do have a campus where our students and teachers will look out for each other; that is one reason why we have a safe campus.
As Mr. Bonfiglio stated, the role we play, as students, is essential in the support of a safe school environment. As shown by the incident at Rancho Tehama Elementary, productiveness and the practice of drills can prevent potential harmful situations, By constantly communicating with faculty or officers on campus whenever we see potential danger, we can ensure the protection of ourselves and others. Continue to remain alert and abide by all necessary precautions, but also take comfort in the fact that we go to a protected school where we can center our focus toward learning and camaraderie, without fear or paranoia.