The sound of the end-of-day school bell symbolizes freedom from classes for most students.
Following recent campus violence, though, the familiar bell toll has taken on a slightly different meaning: an escape to the sanctity of home.
Immediately after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy on Dec. 14, students looked over their shoulders in fear, arguing over whether school was safe anymore. They ran to close classroom doors after the bell rang. Fear gripped the student populace as their imaginations ran wild.
“It seemed like everyone was on edge,” said Christina McNamara, a senior at Coronado High School. “Every time a classroom door would open, you could see the fear in all of our eyes, and there were so many rumors going around that no one knew what to believe. Everyone was so paranoid.”
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where Adam Lanza killed 26 people, 20 of whom were children, has prompted stricter enforcement of the school safety policy in Southern Nevada. On Jan. 8, Canyon Springs High School students received a notice on stricter search policies being implemented by the Clark County School District.
“Students are hereby informed that they will be subject to search when they enter campus after the beginning of the school day. This includes, but is not limited to, unauthorized returns. This notice does not exclude personnel, however, from searching a student at any time should there be reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.”
As awareness of school tragedies increases across the nation, Canyon Springs High School algebra teacher Eugenia Brawdy said she believes a security increase will help negate possible situations.
“I do think that metal detectors are the way to go, but the school district says they are too expensive,” Brawdy said.
And months after the school district’s notice went out, many students, including Canyon Springs senior Elsy Urquilla, haven’t noticed increased security.
“I haven’t really noticed any differences. They mostly just lock the side doors during the day,” Urquilla said.
But, she added she doesn’t know how anyone could prevent a tragedy on the level of the Sandy Hook shootings.
Although some of the modifications seem small to students, an increased police presence on campuses is undeniable. The Henderson Police Department, for instance, has become more involved in school safety, working with the school district’s police force.
“Whenever there are threats, we will distribute that information to all departments, and try to determine if it is a serious threat or just rumors or talking,” Henderson police officer Seth Van Beveren said. “We will also send more enforcement out and inform the school.”
School officials also have become more vigilant in their efforts to ensure that students are safe on campus.
“We are on higher alert than we were before the shooting,” said Sam Johnson, assistant principal of discipline at Coronado High School. “We monitor the cameras more closely and hall monitors are patrolling at all times.”
Principal Ron Guerzon said the focus on school safety at Canyon Springs is high.
“We take nothing lightly,” he said. “If we are given information of a potential threat, we have a specific protocol to follow.”
While officials and police officers say they’re doing what they can to boost student safety, not all students feel secure.
“I just don’t feel like that many changes are being made,” said Jackie Yoo, a senior at Coronado High School. “One of my teachers locks the door, but that’s really the only thing that I notice.”