From the ages of 5 to 18, school takes up a large portion of a student’s life in which is often referred to as a “second parent.” In some cases, school can be seen as a getaway or a safe space from domestic issues that may arise. However, recent years have shown that the term “safe space” may no longer be relevant in everyday school life. Students now tend to associate violence in what used to be a strictly educational standpoint. To combat violence in schools, keeping schools safe and secure has to be the number one priority in many institutions.
In the aftermath of the devastating school shooting that took place in Parkland, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a school safety legislation in January of 2019. The five bills explain the protocols Virginia now has to take in order to secure school safety. For Riverbend students, it’s important to know that steps are being taken to assure safety in all regards. As a key factor, Riverbend’s Deputy Spillman makes the point that that the lockdown drills are the student’s line of defense and that is why we have those drills.
Even though protocols have been put in place to prevent acts of violence in schools, skepticism and uneasiness may still occur. Freshman, Jennifer Mortin said, “My outlook has changed. I used to not really think about if something was to happen at school, but now it’s different. I kind of get paranoid when I’m at school.” A course of action students can contribute to keeping the school safe is the “if you see something, say something” policy. Ms. Minor, one of Riverbend’s guidance counselors, encourages students to be forthcoming in revealing information that may concern them. “We can’t have eyes everywhere, so we need the support of our students and then by you guys being helpful, we know what to look for and we could be proactive in preventing something from occurring.”
At Riverbend, the ME project or the Mental Health Empowerment project is an upcoming club that deals with mental health related issues. Their goal is to “educate members about mental health-related topics and empower students about mental health.” Along with education students on mental awareness, the club strives to make Riverbend a friendlier and welcoming place in order to create a safer and more positive environment.
Faith Fowler, a sophomore at Riverbend, is a personal witness to the tragedy at Parkland. “When I got home, it was all over the news and I had actually swam with one of the boys who died. So, it definitely didn’t sink in right away. Probably a few months after when you’re sitting in class, where you’re thinking about it. I think that’s when it set in.” Fowler is a strong believer in keeping schools safe and what students can do in order to create a kinder environment. “I think an important lesson to learn is that you have to be careful what you say to people and how you treat people. You never know what someone is going home to or what they are going through. They might just need a high five or a smile to make their day a little bit better. I think that’s definitely a hard lesson, but it’s important to learn.”
With all the stress that comes with school, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and forget about the surroundings. Students now need to be actively involved in their schools safety. No longer are we privileged to live in a state of ignorance. It is the responsibility of the student body to be aware of what effect our actions can have on others and chose positivity whenever possible.