Are Saferooms Practical for Francis Lewis?

According to the tracking of Education Week, there have been 51 reports of school shootings that resulted in injuries or death in the past year, and the number of cases will most likely increase in the following years if something is not done.  In some states across the country, such as Alabama, schools started implementing bulletproof saferooms that could potentially keep everyone in the building safe.  These rooms can be utilized for school shootings as well as natural disasters.

The saferooms are bulletproof boxes that fit in the corner of a classroom. They can fold into a white board and are space effective. The essential purpose of this technology is to place students in a safe enclosure that can’t be penetrated by school shooters. However, is it practical for New York City public high schools? 

“So many precautions have been taken and the government isn’t doing much,” junior Muhammad Ashiq said. “And still many shootings and compared to other countries we are getting worse and worse. I’d say yeah its a pretty good idea. It’s in the corner of the wall so it doesn’t take up much space and in case of an emergency it can be deployed very quickly.”  

Student teacher Emily Koerick believes that these safe rooms are “practical”.

“I think that they are practical, we have pretty big classrooms,” Ms. Koerick said. “They are needed everywhere honestly.  It’s very scary to be going into a field where I feel every month or so there is a school shooting on the news, so I’m always supportive of more protection. Hopefully they are cost effective enough to be implemented.”

In contrast to Ms. Koerick, Dr. Marmor does not think safe rooms are practical at all due to all of the movement around the building.

“Not practical at all, for a variety of reasons,” Dr. Marmor said.  “Number one, you have to remember in a high school setting and a very large school much like ours, kids are moving around the building every moment. The “safe room” would only work in a classroom between the bells, with the kids in that very room. The lunchroom always has at least 400-500 students, the gym has hundreds of kids in it, the auditorium, the offices.

“You’re talking about a lot of movement of kids around the day, so for a certain number of children who are in the room when something like that happens, sure a safe room like that might seem practical,” Dr. Marmor continued. “But in terms of providing overall safety to 4,500 kids it wouldn’t likely provide that type of protection. It definitely looks more appropriate for an elementary school setting, where there are less kids and less movement occurring.”

Similar to Ms. Koerick, Spanish teacher Mr. Ramirez agrees that it would be assuring to have the extra security, however he is unsure of how realistic these safe rooms would be.

“It would be nice to have those protections,” Mr. Ramirez said.  “Do I think it’s necessary in school? I’m not sure but I believe something like this could happen in any school. Overall it’s a shame that it’s even something that we have to consider. I’m just not sure how realistic it is.”

Freshman Esia Kakana disapproves of the idea of safe rooms because it’s unnecessary since shootings are basically nonexistent in Queens. 

“No, I mean not really because I personally haven’t seen or heard of any school shooting in Francis Lewis or Queens in general,” Kakana said.

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 13.2% of high school students carry a weapon with them outside of school, compared to 2.8% of all high school students carry a weapon on school property.  All NYC public schools are required to remain the entrance doors unlocked because the greater threat is what’s occurring off of school grounds.

“Every school in New York City has to have their doors unlocked at all times,” Dr. Marmor said. “There is a reason, all around New York City  the bigger threat is what’s happening outside the school.  The need to have a safe place to run is a greater risk statistically. So historically, NYC schools have kept their doors unlocked  because we want to create a safe place for kids to run in for help and that happens every year.  There’s many cases when kids need to run in for help.”

“The number of cases where we needed to barricade ourselves away from somebody is almost none,” Dr. Marmor continued.  “Statistically speaking our kids in New York City have needed to run into their schools to get help, that has been the greater need. So ultimately, that’s why school doors are almost always unlocked instead of being locked.

Although the potential threat is statistically more outside of schools, school shooting are still occurring in schools nationwide. 

“It would be nice if we had some sort of check before the students walked into the building,” Mr. Ramirez said, “although I know how the outside world would then start looking at the school if we started implementing things like metal detectors, which I think would be beneficial. Realistically that might be what it takes to ensure the safety of the faculty of our students.”

Ms. Koerick also thinks that schools are in need of bag checks.

“I think that the only way to guarantee safety is a bag check,” Ms. Koerick added.  “I feel like in a setting where big bags are common, it’s easy to hide a weapon or anything that’s harmful to students and teachers.”

New York City public schools should be expecting a new system of entry in the future that would enhance Francis Lewis’ level of security.

“The city is starting an analysis,” Dr. Marmor said.  “They are starting with the kindergarteners and are going to proceed up. They are going to be creating a new entry system for the schools. The only thing I can tell you is that a change to the security of our front doors is on the agenda. We will probably see it in the future because like I said, they are starting with the kindergarteners and elementary schools.  They are most likely going to be retrofitting the front doors with new technology for entry.”