As school safety reports show a rise of incidents threatening the safety of the students, schools have been reconsidering their safety and security measures. The risk of school shootings is getting higher every year and school’s top priority is the safety of the students. From fencing the campus to metal detectors, school districts have been urgently implementing these safety measures onto their campuses. Which brings us to the question: Is a fence what it takes to ensure the safety of the students at Mission Viejo High School?
I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Zides (one of the assistant principals at MVHS) and asked him about the fencing issue.
Mr. Zides said, “The school was built in 1966 when there weren’t really any active shooters or big problems on campuses like there are now. So they didn’t really think about surrounding the campus with a gate. With some of the newer schools, they have gates and fences….But I think, at some point, you know, we are going to get one… I just don’t know when there is going to be enough money to get one.”
The process of installing a fence is far from simple. If the high school were to purchase a fence, it would have to be approved and purchased by the district.
Of course, the safety of students and staff being the top priority is taken into consideration, but that decision would ultimately come down to money, and there is only so much money that the district would be willing to put into a fence, not to mention, the money could be put into things the district considers more important.
In 2019, before covid, the district attempted to do a bond measure, which is where taxpayers agree to pay more on their taxes each year and all the money will go into a bond (resulting in millions of dollars of additional funding). The district could then put that money toward funding for a fence. However, in order for the approval of the bond issue, it would have needed 67% of the community to vote for it to pass. The voting concluded with only 33% voting for it, so the bond issue got voted down.
It seems like money is the only thing that is stopping the district from installing fences on school campuses.
“If money wasn’t a problem,” Mr. Zides said. “I couldn’t think of a good reason not to have a fence around the school.”
It’s reasonable on why schools would want to take an approach to fencing the perimeter of their campuses. As school shooting cases rise every year, so does the fear of the safety and security of students at school. An immediate instinct would be to fence the area to prevent any unwanted access from intruders and to protect the students on the inside.
However, it is still not clear if a fence will be effective in ensuring protection. Take the Uvalde shooting case as an example. The shooting took place at Robb Elementary School and resulted in the devastating deaths of at least 19 children and two teachers, making it the second most fatal school shooting in U.S. history.
According to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School district, the district had already implemented 21 preventative security measures during the time of the shooting. These measures included the locked door policy, school police officers, security staff (only for middle and high schools), and perimeter fencing.
Even though there was perimeter fencing around the campus of Robb Elementary School, the Texas Department of Public Safety had stated that the gunman had managed to jump over the fence before proceeding to enter the school. This questions how effective a fence can be during a situation like this, and how alternatives such as campus officers can be more effective.
If a shooter had approached a campus that was surrounded by a fence. His first thought would most likely be “how can I find a way to get over it,” than to be hesitant and leave. Versus, if officers patrolled the campus; the shooter would spot them and leave.
Ultimately, I believe we should not spend the money on a fence. Instead of thinking about barricading a campus, school districts should consider having alternatives, such as bullet-proof windows and doors that can automatically lock. In addition, schools should utilize security cameras and focus on increasing the number of patrolling officers on campus, to make sure that if there is any suspicious activity, there is immediate notice and action. Another alternative would be having more mental health counselors and resources on campus. School shooters often have a record of mental and psychological disorders. With school work, extracurriculars, relationships and other factors, stress can easily come and progress into more serious issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, etc. With the help of mental counselors, these problems can be identified and addressed, reducing the chances of school violence.