School shootings have been a rising issue in America as we edge closer to the 20-year anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. One would assume that in the span of 20 years, school districts would have came up with more policies and precautions to prevent horrific acts like school shootings from ever happening.
According to Polytechnic High School contemporary film teacher, Laura Stringer, there are no safety protocols within the Long Beach Unified School District to prevent such things from happening. There is currently nothing a teacher can protect themselves or their students if an intruder were to come inside the classroom, she said.
“We had a meeting talking about what to do if anything happened,” said Stringer. “I was told to throw a stapler at the shooter, push heavy things in front of the door, make it difficult for them to get inside. Only, if they do get inside, there is nothing we can do.”
Stringer thinks that the school district is capable of changing rules to better the safety of both the students and teachers. There are a lot of factors, though, that get in the way of developing a safe plan for threats.
“There is no communication offline. If someone is sending a threat toward the school, we get an email,” she said, explaining further that when recent rumors of threats took place, the school internet was off. Most teachers were unaware of the threat until the next day, when they noticed a lot of police officers on campus and half the student body absent. That threat emerged as unsubstantiated but students at other Long Beach schools were arrested the same week for making threats.
For Stringer, communication breakdowns aren’t the only issue. A simple exit strategy would put most staff members at ease as Stringer expressed her frustrations with keeping her school safe.
“We need to be able to lock the doors from the inside,” Stringer said. “It’s ridiculous that we can only lock our doors when we leave for the day… We need to able to either remain in our classrooms safely or be able to quickly get off the property.” Leaving campus in a situation is a challenge, however, as the rules state that upon a school lockdown, teachers must keep their students inside the classroom.
Stringer does believe that a change in policy is obtainable through the youth as she encourages her students to stand up and make the district take notice. “The kids are starting to push back, telling people to do something,” Stringer said. “None of this happened until the kids got involved. Wal-Mart stopped selling assault rifles and that’s all because of the youth, not me.”
During the National School Walkout on March 14, Stringer neither encouraged nor discouraged her students to participate. She only advised those who participate in the protest to record the event, spread it through social media, and make their voices heard. “I’m not going to tell you what to protest, how to, or whether or not you should, but it’s something you believe in, stand for it. People will notice,” Stringer said.
No school or district administrators responded to requests for comment.