Locking Down the Threats to Safety in Schools


Cassidy Andersen, Journalist

Just two weeks ago multiple threats were made against our school and other schools within our district. Many students did not come to school due to the four threats that were directed towards us here at Western Branch. The threats prompted Principal Quentin Hicks to send an email to parents.

You may have heard of a rumor being spread throughout social media last night and this morning regarding a potential threat to our school.  We have been in communication with the Chesapeake Police Department and have confirmed that there is no credible threat to our students or staff.  You may notice a greater police presence at our school today as a precautionary measure.”

Even though this email was sent out, students still felt unsafe. Many did not show up to school the following day and the ones who did come to school did not feel safe with the circumstances. 

Nia Wiggins, 12, said, “When I first came in today I did not feel very safe, I was told there would be more security around. I just felt like anyone could have walked into the building. In this situation, I definitely expected more.” 

Parents were assured there would be a heavier police presence, but there was one, maybe two extra police cars, when students came in, 

“Why did I see none when I walked in? I saw none,” said Jason Li, 12.

Situations like these have caused debates on whether schools should have metal detectors. 

“Why do we not have metal detectors?” Li said. “ When you walk in, you will not know who is carrying a weapon.”

Students think these threats were a result of quarantine as well as the lack of attention the perpetrators received. In addition to those theories, students like Jasmine Buthea think these threats are starting to become a trend. 

“When people got into lockdown they started to panic, I think it had an effect,” Buthea said.  “The threat had people scared, people didn’t come to school. They made it a trend.” 

As a result of lockdown, students faced struggles with their mental health, which could have caused the dilemma of threats within the community. Studies show during the pandemic 46% of 977 parents found their child’s mental health had declined from the start of the pandemic.

“Better mental health services would be very big, more resources going to guidance would be very important,” Jolyne Gehrky, 10, “I think teenagers right now are going through this mental health epidemic.”

Here at Western Branch High there are five security officers and one school resource officer. These staff members help to make our school safe, along our school safety procedures. 

“Starting from the outside in, all exterior doors are secured, they are open in the morning, you can only come in through the auditorium doors and the bus ramp. When the bell rings every door is secured, the only way in is from the front office, where you have to show an ID to be let in.”

The school recently added a second set of doors at the main office entrance that prevents someone from forcing their way into the building at that entrance. Not only is an ID required to enter the building, but a security guard is there to buzz people in through an intercom system. 

“If someone did force their way in, they can’t get into L hall without being buzzed in,” said Officer Cooke. “All classroom doors are supposed to be locked, furthermore, we have lockdown drills. We also have your school security officers and a school resource officer, an armed police officer in your building. Another added layer is a police radio, and the school admin has a live police radio. Police officers in the area will hear that immediately then they can respond.”

With over 2300 students and 120 faculty and staff on campus, Officer Cooke also believes students should carry their ID cards on them at all times.

“I think we should have them on a lanyard, so that way if you see someone without an ID, they can be stopped by security,” Officer Cooke said. “This can help us identify people who don’t belong in the building.” 

Overall, most students feel safe at school, out of 100 we asked over sixty said they felt safe. Some of the added features students talked of were metal detectors, but Officer Cooke thinks some safety measures could make students feel like they are in a prison.

“At what point do you feel like you aren’t at school anymore? You feel like you’re walking around a prison, there’s a fine line there,” Cooke said.

In an effort to curb criminal activity, many schools have installed metal detectors, required students to walk the halls with student IDs visible at all times, and use clear backpacks in hopes of preventing students from bringing weapons to school, but these additional “protections” often change the school climate. 

 “How much safety do we sacrifice for security?” Officer Cooke said. “How much are you willing to give to make sure we are secure and safe?”