BY SUMYA MOHIUDDIN
Preventing all the violence in schools and surrounding areas is a wish shared by those who appreciate the value of a life. On Thursday, Apr. 11, 2013, Malden residents were welcomed to listen to the Vice Principal of Linden S. T. E. A. M. Academy, Peter Dolan, and the director of the Malden Emergency Management team, Tom Walsh. Vice Principal Dolan informed the audience that “students and teachers perform at their highest when they feel safe,” and striving for that feeling of safety is what Vice Principal Dolan and Walsh are trying to achieve.
Discussions on school safety began last year in October, where Monthly Safety Meetings were held, and the Mayor, Superintendent, police and fire departments, as well as other important figures, were present. Vice Principal Dolan mentioned how it is important to “stay consistent in goals” and have an overall operation plan.
A School Crisis Recovery Team was created to serve several important roles in the safety of our schools: they would respond to police and fire incidents, and even help people through a tragedy. They suggested there be more working cameras around the school, and to have keyless doors so teachers would have to swipe a card to get into their room.
Processes as complicated as this requires training, which is what Vice Principal Dolan presented to the audience. He emphasized the importance of informing the students of this training because “kids often will step in and surprise you” in a moment of panic. Training also requires the participation in school drills. This refers to “shelter-in-place,” lockdowns, evacuations and relocations. Drills will be “held during different parts of the day,” so that students know what it feels. Staff members and students will be evaluated by their participation, and Vice Principal Dolan hopes to see improvement.
With this new operation plan, changes are inevitable. In each classroom, for example, there will be buckets, blankets, food for diabetics, anything that is necessary for a long period of time. Teachers will no longer use the long and complicated codes because teachers, especially substitute teachers will not remember them. Cards that are usually slipped out the door will no longer be intact because the attacker or threat will “know somebody’s in the room,” and that is the last thing that Dolan wants.
A. L. I. C. E., an acronym that represents Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Confront, Evacuate, not particularly in that order, was “endorsed by over 400 school systems,” and Vice Principal Dolan informs that the numbers keep growing. Ties between A. L. I. C. E. and the importance of knowing what is going on, and what to do was mentioned. Vice Principal Dolan made a strong connection to the Columbine school shooting. He implied that the students were not prepared for what was happening: “There were 15 doors surrounding the students that led outside, yet nobody ran outside. Not one single person.” The truth behind his words awakened the truth behind this presentation: Not everything can be planned for, but we must do our best so that we are not left with the question of “Did we do everything we could have done?”
As well as preventing violence from coming into the school, Vice Principal Dolan talked about preventing violence from erupting within the school. Mitigating violence within the school can be done after students find at least one adult in the building that they are comfortable in confiding in. Teachers, as well as trained students, are expected to come forward with disturbing pieces of writing, drawings, and/or comments immediately. Students will feel safer if everyone else feels the same.
After Vice Principal Dolan, Walsh talked to the audience about how the plan will see a vast improvement within the next 18 months. He understands the importance of survival, and why it is vital that we know how to stay alive. Walsh ends the presentation, emphasizing that “people must be cooperative and coordinating together.”
After presenting this to the residents of Malden, they will propose it to the city's school board, and wait for an approval or rejection.