by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor
DECEMBER 2021 — In the aftermath of the school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan Nov. 30, Genesee county urged school districts to consider their safety protocols. The shooting resulted in at least four deaths and several injuries and was reported to occur in the span of around five minutes. It ended when the suspect, a 15-year-old student, was arrested after being spotted with live ammunition in a school hallway, according to the Detroit Free Press.
A common safety protocol, implemented in schools since 2000, is ALICE training. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. Officer Terri Moncoveish, a NEOMED police officer, visited Bio-Med Science Academy to discuss ALICE safety protocols with students in October. In the event of a lockdown, students were instructed to use their best judgment to decide a course of action and to counter as a last resort.
Many safety protocols, like ALICE, were created after the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School. Moncoveish noted that in situations like Columbine, students who barricaded doors, jumped out of windows, and took precautions other than hiding under desks in an unlocked room, had a higher survival rate.
Moncoveish stated that the most important thing to take away from the meeting is for students to “pay attention [and] take instructions from teachers if possible. I know at times it’s not going to be possible, because when something’s happening, people don’t react the same as when they’re trained. I go through all this police training; that doesn’t mean I’m going to react [based] on how I was trained.”
The ALICE presentations were also given during the 2020-2021 school year. However, the school was not yet at full capacity, since students from each grade were still attending online. This year, no online option was offered through Bio-Med, meaning that the school is at full capacity once again. As a result, many students were introduced to ALICE for the first time this year and still had questions about implementing the safety procedures in the new building.
Moncoveish recommended that students maintain “a routine of keeping an open mind” and to familiarize themselves with the school layout.
“The kids need to know the layout of the building, in case they get separated from their classrooms,” she advised. “[Students should] know how to get out [and] know where to hide if they need to hide. Don’t be afraid. A lot of kids are going to be afraid, especially if they see some guy walking in their school…. The building layout is probably the most important thing. It’s a sore subject to talk about, but unfortunately [emergencies] happen all the time.”
Despite knowing the layout of the building, some students still had questions about the “tripod” rooms. These are three classrooms in the new addition that connect to each other through large glass garage doors. They are located on the third and fourth floors.
Seventh-grader Rylee Flack shared her concerns about the glass doors. “If the glass were to break, it would hurt someone,” she said.
In the original building, students have practiced emergency drills many different times throughout the year. “We’ve practiced what to do if an intruder comes in and a few fire [drills],” Flack concluded.
Though she had concerns, she felt confident with the ALICE and other emergency procedures and prepared if those situations were ever to arise.
Mrs. Carrie Sinkele, the 10th grade engineering teacher, teaches in one of the tripod classrooms. Since it is her first year teaching at Bio-Med, she recently learned all of the school’s safety procedures. No matter what the emergency situation is, she stated that “either way, I lock and close my classroom doors, [and] shut off the lights.”
In situations that involve leaving the classroom, all teachers are also equipped with a green backpack. This is filled with items like first-aid kits, class rosters, and other items needed in the event of a crisis.
She continued, “I do not know if we have procedures for the garage doors in a lockdown. I can always lock the garage doors for my room.”
The garage doors, however, can only be locked from one side. In rooms that expose the doors to the outside, the feature allows for teachers inside the classroom to control when it is locked and unlock it for an easy escape route.
However, in some of the tripod classrooms, having the doors lock from one side is not as simple. Since the doors connect multiple classrooms together, certain classrooms have the ability to lock doors, while others do not, depending on what side of the garage door faces them.
Mrs. Lindsey McLaughin, the chief operating officer and principal of grades 10 through 12, addressed the concerns students had.
“Every emergency is situational so this question doesn’t have a simple, succinct answer,” McLaughlin noted. “If we think in terms of ALICE… you should [first] listen to your teacher and/or the adult in the room, [secondly] do your best to stay out of sight… find ways to barricade yourself into your room, [and] if able, leave the room and seek shelter somewhere else and/or evacuate the building. The most important thing to take away from your ALICE training is that the goal is to get out of the building if and when able. If you can’t, then you must use what is at your disposal to be as safe as possible.”
Moncoveish elaborated on this by reminding students of ALICE procedures in the event of a lockdown.
“Now, if you don’t have time [to evacuate]… the best thing is if you can get out of sight from the active shooter so you’re not visible, but for something like [the garage doors] it’s going to be hard,” she said. “Remember when I say counter is your last resort? Again, we have tons of stuff in here that students could throw at [an intruder], just to throw them off balance, or give just enough time to get out another door.”
When designing the glass doors, the primary concern was to create a space that would encourage collaboration between rooms. Greg Chaplin, the Architect and Project Manager at Hasenstab, held a pivotal role in the construction of the new building. He was responsible for construction administration and met weekly with the contractor during the building’s construction.
“The learning style at Bio-Med is based on student collaboration,” he said. “This collaboration happens not just within each classroom but also often between classrooms and subjects. The glass doors provide a way to connect the students visually and physically, which fosters the collaborative environment.”
On top of this, Hasenstab architects needed to consider safety in a structural sense as well. Since funding was aided by the state of Ohio, they had to adhere to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) guidelines.
Despite concerns about the glass doors, he noted that safety was heavily considered in the school’s design. The building was designed with a plethora of safety exits and the inclusion of some rooms without glass, in the event of situations like fires, lockdowns, or tornadoes.
Chaplin noted that “Safety really starts with careful monitoring who is coming into the building. For Bio-Med, this is accomplished through two distinct checkpoints. The first is at the entrance to the building from the outside. Secondly, visitors are greeted at the main office area before they can proceed to any of the educational spaces. These checkpoints along with security cameras throughout the space were installed for student and staff safety.”
When joining Bio-Med, each student is given an ID card with their name and photo on it. It is required that their ID is visible at all times.
“The ID system is a safety procedure, especially since we are housed on a shared campus with a university as well as various publicly-accessible organizations,” McLaughlin explained. “In order to limit access to our spaces, the ID system was put into place, both to be able to identify those who have approved access to our spaces as well as to act as access keys to our spaces.”
Many members of the Bio-Med community appreciated this safety precaution, including Sinkele.
“I like that each student and staff needs an ID. I’m not sure if all people have their ID at all times,” Sinkele said. “I believe that this is one level of protection and I like that we have police on campus if the need arises.”
Sophomore Alana Smith shared similar opinions. “I think it helps. It makes me feel a little bit safer. I like the ID system,” they said.
“I think [the ID system] actually helps a lot. It obviously helps when it comes to our guests and visitors. It’s a deterrent, because people know that you need a badge to get in. That is the main deterrent to keep people from doing that,” Moncoveish added.
However, there is always a possibility that a student has intent to harm their school environment. Taking that into consideration, if an active shooter were to ever be present on Bio-Med’s campus, the school has a designated safe area that students would report to. Information regarding this location’s whereabouts are withheld from the students for that reason, and are only given in the event of an emergency.
“I do like to remind students a lot that if they hear something, say something,” Moncoveish said.
“That’s where most of the risk level will drop for an active shooter, because most active shooters are either a student or a student from a different school that someone knows…. If you hear something, say something to a teacher or somebody. Just so it gets addressed. And even if it’s petty, meaning [if a student were to say] ‘I’m gonna come and beat your friend up because she stole my boyfriend.’ It’s just — it might seem so petty, but in that person’s eyes, it’s their whole world. People have different views on everything. Even if it’s just the slightest thing, I just highly recommend someone saying something, maybe what’s going on to a parent, just letting them know”
While IDs are a part of the dress code, some students do not wear theirs daily, or rely on their peers to open the doors for them. Moncoveish elaborated on how this could be problematic.
“Other than making sure everyone has badges to get in, you know kids, they’re nice, they’ll hold the door open for everybody and I tried to tell you guys, this is your school. Keep it safe.”
Whether it is ALICE training, a fire-drill, a tornado drill, or a lockdown drill, students have been instructed on how to be prepared in the event of an emergency. No matter the situation, students are expected to listen to their teacher and follow their best judgment.