It’s most unfortunate that students today face potential dangers which their parents may have never even thought of as children. The way in which we as a society look at the humble school has changed drastically even in the last twenty years. In the 1900s, the school was a simple building with classrooms, a library, administration offices, and perhaps a cafeteria. Community members, adults, parents, and anyone in between were able to enter the brick-clad structure without fear of interruption or being stopped. Flash forward to the 2000s, and the school building is no longer just a stone prism; it’s a fortress. In light of recent events, school communities have begun working incredibly hard to protect the well being of the students they used to only have to teach.
The case is somewhat different for Walton County schools, for they have been improving upon the school’s security measures for much longer than many other education systems. I recently was able to attend the Community Forum on School Safety held at the Praise Center last Thursday, August 23rd. A large panel was present at this forum including EMTs, firefighters, police officers, school safety employees, and the superintendents from Walton County Public Schools and Social Circle City Schools: Nathan Franklin and Todd McGhee, respectively. All generously gave their time to talk about and answer questions regarding the extensive measures being taken to protect students from all sorts of dangers. Although the main topic up for discussion involved school shooter situations, the panel also addressed bullying, suicide, and other modernly pervasive issues teens face in America.
I was very impressed with the confidence our school system and its protectors had in their diligent work towards shielding me and my fellow peers from the complex issues others like me have had to endure. I had never realized the extent to which the police, firefighters, and EMTs trained together in preparation for situations like the one at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida earlier this year. The panel thoroughly explained the methods the three groups had begun learning to better work together in a crisis situation. By using each others’ strengths to solve an issue, each group is able to more effectively resolve the affair. As a student, it was also comforting to learn that police, firefighters, and EMTs had begun to train together. Much of this training involved communicating during a school crisis as well as general collaboration. By working together now, time is saved later because each department would know its place in a situation.
Another interesting piece of information was brought to my attention at the Community Forum on School Safety: an app (called See Something, Send Something) which students can use to report any suspicious activity directly to the authorities. Aiming to avoid the miscommunication and ignorance which led to the shooting at Parkland, Walton County uses this system so that students can feel heard should they see anyone acting out of the ordinary. As a student at Walnut Grove High School, I do not recall ever hearing such an app existed; and even if I did and have since forgotten, the school hasn’t capitalized on its importance as much as they maybe have ought to. The panelists often brought up the dangers of social media and technology, especially regarding bullying. Therefore, I feel as if a positive side of technology, which could be used to save lives, should become more known to the student body. At any rate, the efforts of my schools in this area are still astounding and, of course, a relief to all in the community.
Schools have indeed changed over the years, but I remain a proud resident of Walton County and its education system because of the tireless endeavors to keep me and thousands of others safe. What concerns many today is the increasing rate at which school safety issues are occurring. Luckily, I live in a county which, I am confident in saying, has done, is doing, and will do the best it possibly can to protect the well-being of its future. That future is the students, who can feel safe knowing the hundreds who work and work and work just for them will never give up until their job is finished. I can only hope this work ethic will live on through us and preserve the excellent example of civility and safety which I have the pleasure of witnessing every day at Walnut Grove High School.
Joshua Walker is a Journalism Explorer with Your Local News and worked as an intern over the summer.