By: Huda Ayaz
In March 2018, every Wheatley student received an email that would change their morning routine. Forever.
Gone were the days of freely entering our favorite place to be 50+ hours a week (haha, never gets boring…ever) as now we’d first have to take out a plastic card with our names and a picture of ourselves that most of us would rather not see so early in the morning (especially when it flashes across the screen when you tap-in and you worry that the entire school will find out you don’t know how to smile).
Okay, maybe it isn’t so dramatic and most of us are used to it at this point, but there was a big initial uproar when the procedure was first implemented. However, it happened for a reason.
Schools across the United States became more concerned about protecting their students and implemented all types of ways to keep us safe following the spike in school shootings. Particularly after the Parkland school shooting, Wheatley held a walkout to honor the 17 students who lost their lives. The increase in school shootings raised questions about safety in our own school, leading to the introduction of the tap-in system.
Dr. Klapper, Assistant Principal, was kind enough to answer a few questions about our school’s safety program and mentioned that the main reason to implement the school ID tap-in system was that, outside of having teachers take attendance, “we really didn’t have a way to determine who was in the building,” especially when you factor in the students with off-campus privileges. “The importance of knowing which students are actually in the building is paramount for safety.” In fact, police/firefighters need an “accurate count” on the students in school in case of an emergency situation.
However, this isn’t the first time in history that school shootings triggered a change in school safety across the nation.
In 1999, when two high school boys opened fire in their school and killed 15 people in the Columbine High School Massacre, school safety “changed dramatically.” According to Dr. Klapper, over the years, Wheatley took on many safety precautions including:
- Different entry procedures
- No entry after the start of the day by the red doors
- Security at each side of the school from 7 am-9:30 pm. We used to use only monitors and did not have security after 2:30 by the red doors
- State-mandated lockdown drills that we must adhere to or be out of compliance with the state
- Alarms on all exterior doors
- Electronic lockdown system
- Additional cameras and camera upgrade from analog to digital
- Training of all staff
- Changing the glass in the classroom doors to ⅓ of the original size
- Blue tape for safe areas in the classroom determined
And…the tap-in system.
There’s more to come too. Two of the district’s determined goals to achieve over a 5-year period are to try to get “a fence at North Side” to make the building safer and to “gain additional insights” into students’ lives and wellbeing. Dr. Klapper also felt that it was important to note this: increasing safety doesn’t make the problem go away and they know that. New York State is looking forward to taking on the problem at its root so that kids won’t have to reach the point where they resort to violence.
So next time you think about complaining about how tedious it may feel to frantically search for your ID before entering school, consider how there is a true purpose for the system and that the administration only has the best intentions in mind for our safety.