TTSD talks school safety


James Canfield

Head of Security Stace Shillitto bubble wraps juniors Makayla Bell, CJ Hilgaertner and Corinne Fullerton. That should keep them safe.

By Olivia Young

     As students, we are living in a post-Parkland society.

     Knowing how easily a perpetrator could enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and take the lives of 17 teenagers, a national discussion has ensued on how we can make our schools safer.

     There are many people in our school who are working to improve our safety in different ways. Since the Parkland shooting, they have become more vigilant than ever and are now implementing higher-safety measures to protect us students.

     “I always had concerns [before Parkland],” Head of Security Stace Shillitto said. Shillitto knows firsthand what security measures are being created at Tigard, as well as the risks these measures prevent. He knows that if someone wants to get in the school badly enough they can.  “If a kid wants to do something like that, they can find a way in,” he said.

    Principal Andy Van Fleet is also concerned about making sure the school is secure. “My hope is that every principal would reflect on [what happened] for a moment and just think. It does make me pause and take a look at how our school is set up,” Van Fleet said.

     Ever since Parkland, Van Fleet has been meeting with Tigard’s safety team to put new security measures into action for different campus locations, from the commons to the portables. New guidelines will create a better sense of security at our school moving forward. One of these new guidelines is limiting the number of entry points where people can get into the school. This mainly involves locking the doors next to the language hall, the courtyard, and various other doors from the inside.

     “We’re working on limiting access points throughout the school [and] always knowing who’s coming in and who’s coming out of Tigard,” Shillitto said. “I take pride in knowing what’s going on around the school.” This particular change to the building’s security has received some pushback from students, but Van Fleet is confident this change will increase overall safety.

     “If [students] have ever come or gone to our building from the science wing or foreign language wing, [they] realize that there are about six different doors that are open all the time in the back of the school,” Van Fleet said. “So we’re now locking those doors during the school day, so during class times it’s not open for [outside people] to come in.”

     Although this is the most visible change, there are a plethora of other measures that will be implemented in the upcoming months and 2019 school year. These include locking down the doors leading to the auto shop, adding additional security to the physical building and having more security officers and employees to monitor the school. Additional security officers will make it easier to find anyone who seems “out of place,” according to Van Fleet.

     “We’re continuing conversations with how to get more security. We have one and a half police officers here. [We’ve wondered] is there a way to get two permanent people?” Van Fleet said. These changes will be implemented over the next couple of months, and will become the new norm at Tigard.

     “When our whole bond is done… we’re going to have one locked down campus. We’re hoping we’ll also be able to build [a] gate on either side [of the campus] so you can get out in a fire drill, that will lock down that courtyard space, and will allow people to go to and from without having strangers walking through campus,” Van Fleet said.  Any volunteers, late students, and parents will be filtered into one central office, creating better security. With this new addition, if any suspicious characters enter into our school a button can be pressed, doors could be locked, and students and staff could be safe until help arrives.

     While there are many changes going on physically around the building, there are also changes in staff’s attitude and training. For security officer Shillitto, this means being more involved in the school and educating himself on the happenings and concerns of all students.

     “I’m personally working on being more approachable to students. Going into classrooms, checking up on teachers and students while they’re in class; those are all things I’ve been working on. Just making sure I don’t appear intimidating, so if students have a concern they can come alert me and say something,” Shillitto said. “Also continuing to practice lock ins and outs, and watching for signs on social media.”

     Van Fleet has focused on being more vigilant throughout the school day. “We are trying to get out and be as visible as we can, while also providing input to our bond design team, saying this is what we need to consider in regards to safety.”

     These new changes have not gone unnoticed. Students around THS are observing the new safety measures and how they’ve affected their school days, for better or for worse.

     “They locked the one door that’s by the cafeteria that goes to the lower language hall and science hall, because I always used to go through those doors and I couldn’t […] I keep forgetting that it’s locked, and it kind of affects how much time it takes for me to get [to class],” senior Tiara Comstock said.

     These security measures can put some minds at ease, but there are still some students who feel anxious and unsafe in their school environment. Out of 200 students interviewed, 53 percent feel unsafe in school. While that is only a small fraction of our school, it brings to light the scary reality that most students face.

     “I come in every day feeling very confident in the safety of this school,” Van Fleet said. “I think the number one thing we can do as a school is continue to work on how we treat each other, and the more students feel accepted, the more we show our respect to those students, the chances of a traumatic incident like [Parkland] drops dramatically.”

     While Van Fleet may feel confident in safety, students have felt a little uneasy walking through our school doors each morning. Our administration knows that, and they’ve been tirelessly working to keep our safety their main priority.

     Students will adjust to the “new normal”; locked down doors, buzz in systems, SRO’s and other teachers patrolling the hallways. However, hopefully with these new features, the likelihood of a school shooting can drop dramatically. Then  students can come to school with feelings of hope and a readiness to excel, rather than anxiety and fear.