It’s “School Security”, Not the “SS”

We have all been through it: Lock the doors, turn off the lights, and crouch under your desk quietly until the  administration comes back over the loudspeaker. Time and time again, these drills teach us what to do if someone dangerous enters the campus, but how many times has there actually been a threat? Have you ever even been been in a lockdown because of a gun related situation? How often do you feel endangered on your campus? Personally, in my school, I never have. With ten-foot metal fences and four to five security guards, who could feel unsafe? However, is all this extra security necessary? Have Palm Desert High School and many other schools taken security too far?

When approaching Palm Desert High School, you will wonder if it is actually a high school, or a maximum security prison. The intimidating gates, large monotonously colored buildings, and multitude of badge wielding security guards makes the campus feel more closed than inviting, but what is the administration trying to protect the students from? In  Palm Desert, a city known for its safety and small population, these precautions do not need to be put into effect. The entire population of Palm Desert measures just over 50,000, with 32.9% of the population aged 65 and over, triple the California state average.1 With such an elderly population, what danger could they possibly pose to a high school? In 2012 Palm Desert High School went under reconstruction. The old open campus was destroyed, and the metal fences went up. The new Palm Desert High School campus, along with other new high school campuses in the Coachella Valley, have put safety as their main priority during construction.

It seems likely, that Palm Desert High School has tried to lessen the likeliness of a gunman entering campus through the installment of these new security measures. However, since  around 1985, the number of mass shootings has remained constant. Every year since, there have been approximately 20 shootings, with a total of roughly 100 fatalities.2  With this consistency, it is extremely unlikely that any school in the Coachella Valley, or an area with similar demographics, would ever have to worry about the threats of a school shooting.  The story may be different for schools located in the Bronx, Compton, and South Side Chicago, but not for a school located in an area well known as a vacation spot for celebrities and other seeking warm weather. The original Palm Desert campus was opened in 1986, displaying an open campus without any metal fences, and only a handful of security guards. This year, there has been a roughly equal number of mass shootings since the old campus was built,  however, the campus is more fortified.

So why have schools began to increase security measures? Especially schools that are in areas overrun by snowbirds? The answer: the media. Even though the amount of mass shootings has remained constant, the media has over exaggerated the actual risk. With their 24-hour coverage, nonstop debates, and mass shooting history recap, it has forced into the viewer’s minds an unnecessary sense of fear.3 So while the numbers remain stagnant,  we are faced with the facts more often than in earlier years.

Over the past 30 years schools have not suddenly become more dangerous. Schools have remained a safe haven for students, and a place of learning. Districts and administrators in Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley have taken unrequired steps to attempt to protect the schools and students. There is no need to have security guards standing at a gate every morning checking  student’s IDs cards, or to have 10 foot tall metal fences surrounding a high school that holds high achieving students. All of this fear has been caused by media outlets, but in reality, there is no bigger threat out there then there was when our parents were attending high school. Schools, such as Palm Desert High School, have taken security measures to the next level without any legitimate reasoning.

  1. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0655184.html []
  2. http://elibrary.bigchalk.com/elibweb/elib/do/document?set=search&dictionaryClick=&secondaryNav=&groupid=1&requestid=lib_standard&resultid=6&edition=&ts=41BEFC780F1FEC44EED3FD70B688B439_1407212172137&start=1&publicationId=&urn=urn%3Abigchalk%3AUS%3BBCLib%3Bdocument%3B213134342&pdfflag=y []
  3. http://elibrary.bigchalk.com/elibweb/elib/do/document?set=search&dictionaryClick=&secondaryNav=&groupid=1&requestid=lib_standard&resultid=6&edition=&ts=41BEFC780F1FEC44EED3FD70B688B439_1407212172137&start=1&publicationId=&urn=urn%3Abigchalk%3AUS%3BBCLib%3Bdocument%3B213134342&pdfflag=y []

Courtney Kantowski is currently a senior at Palm Desert High School. She is hoping to attend University of Texas at Austin in Fall of 2015, and hopes to study Law.