Spencer Schultz, Jenna, Vespi, Ali Durkin, and Jillian Risavi
Editor-in-Chief and Producers
On Nov. 16, the threat of a school shooting hit home for Jamesville-DeWitt High School students. During first period, a student discovered suggestive graffiti written in the girls’ red hall bathroom insinuating that a student planned to act violently during the school day on Friday, Nov. 17. That student told the administration. “The first thing I did was call 911,” says Principal Paul Gasparini.
He then issued a “Shelter In Place” warning over the loudspeaker until the situation was thoroughly investigated by DeWitt police. “We were not afraid there was going to be a problem in the hallway. But the reason we issued the shelter in place is because we did not want any students interfering with the police,” says Mr. Gasparini.
After the DeWitt police concluded their investigation on Thursday, which included examinations of the other bathrooms and discussions with students, several officers were stationed in school on Friday, Nov. 17 to assure that the school was safe.
Despite these added precautions, approximately 450 students were absent from school that Friday. Many felt unsafe due to the threat, and several students took to Twitter to express their beliefs on the issue.
What’s happening— maya (@mayafrieden) November 16, 2017
When there is threatening note in a bathroom get the students out of the school, not shelter in place— Lennier Stynes (@LennierStynes) November 16, 2017
To all JDHS students. If there is a school shooting, follow the normal protocol. If they get into your room distract them to give th...— Lennier Stynes (@LennierStynes) November 17, 2017
dont go to school tomorrow. this threat hasnt been taken seriously and its not okay. be safe. stay home— Will Upton (@wupton109) November 16, 2017
This event brought into question J-DHS’s readiness to deal with students or people who may try to inflict harm upon the school.
According to a DeWitt police officer stationed in school on Nov. 17, J-D is the only public high school in the area without a Student Resource Officer. But this doesn’t indicate we are safer than any other school. Rather, we (the editors) believe the situation on Nov. 16 should convince administration that we are just as vulnerable as any other school.
SROs serve to maintain the school’s safety and provide students with an additional outlet during times of distress and danger. The conversation over J-D having an SRO has arisen in the past, but the J-D Board of Education has neglected to consider an SRO because of the negative connotation it may create, says Mr. Gasparini. The Board of Education in the past has felt that having an armed officer would create a negative climate in the school.
Mr. Gasparini himself also questions the need for an SRO. “If you go through our halls at any given time, they’re quiet. There’s not a lot going on,” says Mr. Gasparini. He also cited the “great rapport” that assistant principals Will Dowdell and Dave Nylen have with students and our hall monitor.
Nevertheless, English teacher Kristin Gallivan emphasized her feelings that an SRO would create a more secure school environment. Though the school board felt that an SRO at J-D would send the wrong message, Gallivan says Fayetteville-Manlius was able to successfully implement an officer while still maintaining a positive atmosphere. “We would be able to look to an SRO as a person to talk to, as someone who students can go to in times of threat,” says Mrs. Gallivan, who is an F-M alumna.
Although J-DHS does have two security cameras that are monitored by Attendance Secretary Pam Breck, not all of the cameras are known to be fully-functioning. Unlike other high schools in the area, J-D currently does not have any security footage of inside the school which, if installed, would have been able to identify whoever wrote the suggestive graffitti.
Administration is currently discussing the “expansion of our surveillance footprint,” says Mr. Gasparini. As a principal, Mr. Gasparini says safety is his primary concern. “It’s why we’re in the halls. It’s why we interact with students as much as we can,” he says.
Still, Mr. Gasparini realizes there is a “fine line” between protection and over-surveillance. “That’s the conversation we’re having right now. We’re going to add more security cameras, but it’s a discussion of how we add them, where we add them, how many we add, and how they will be monitored.”