The lockdown needs to be a wake up call

The false alarm lockdown last Friday was unnerving, or even traumatic, for almost everyone at the Winnetka campus. For nearly fifteen minutes it seemed as though everyone’s worst fear had been realized–an active shooter had entered our school.

Frantic group text messages bombarded phones of students and staff. The in-and-out mumbling over the loudspeaker only amplified the chaos. 

Students were in locked classrooms with the lights turned off, the door barricaded with desks, and people crying or texting their parents to say goodbye. Any noise made the entire room flinch, each person straining to hear gunshots that thankfully never came.

School shootings are statistically extremely unlikely. We were all surprised by the lockdown. But during those 15 minutes when we didn’t know what was going on, there was almost a sense that a shooting had been bound to happen at our school.

Thankfully, New Trier has several safety mechanisms in place, and most of them functioned exactly as they should. We have one lockdown drill every year, and as a result everyone was able to act swiftly once the siren sounded. 

Within a minute, most classrooms were locked, barricaded, and silent as per protocol. Police were on campus within three minutes of the alarm. The security staff, teachers, and administrators did a great job under remarkably stressful circumstances.

If anything good came out of the false alarm, it was knowledge of what exactly needs to be changed or improved in the event of a real emergency. Some doors could not lock, and there were a few rooms where the PA system could not be heard. 

If there ever was a legitimate lockdown at New Trier, staff now know exactly how to handle the situation.

However, the distress the lockdown created among students and staff serves as a painful reminder of the threat posed by school shootings.

It is disgraceful that in 2019, American students and teachers fear being shot and killed at school. The fact that in-depth security scanning systems, check-in vestibules, shatter-proof film over windows, and lockdown drills are necessary is problematic. 

Our country’s legislators have failed to enact reasonable gun-control laws, and schools around the country have been forced to pick up the slack. 

NT has taken a lot of steps to ensure student safety, and this was shown when the lockdown last Friday went relatively smoothly. Many schools throughout the country do not have the resources to ensure the same level of preparedness. 

Universal background checks and other “common sense” gun reform have widespread bipartisan support. According to an ABC poll from September 9, 89 percent of Americans believe background checks should be required for all gun buyers, and 86 percent agree that police should have the power to take guns from people deemed dangerous by a judge.

Despite such pervasive agreement, Congress has been unwilling to implement these basic reforms. The prominence of pro-gun donors for national campaigns has made it nearly impossible to create any sort of change. The cost of these campaign contributions is being paid in the lives taken by gun violence throughout this country everyday.

As students, we need to demand change from our legislators. Regardless of your party, ideology, or politics, most can agree that small steps can be taken to make it more difficult for guns to get into the wrong hands.

If politicians refuse to make even minor changes, they should be fearful of losing their seats in Congress come the next election. More and more students are coming of voting age, and we likely won’t vote for candidates who lack the conviction to do the right thing.

On March 14, 2018, students across the country, including hundreds from NT, walked out of class to demand legislation that would limit the accessibility of guns and the likelihood of school shootings after the Parkland massacre. Since that walkout, what has changed? 

We were lucky it was only a false alarm last Friday, but this needs to serve as a wake-up call. This is not normal, the fight is not over, and we cannot become complacent.