Are Schools Truly Safe?


Emma Hacker

LEXINGTON, KY- Lafayette students walk through the morning metal detector lines.

Are schools truly safe? This is a question that feels like it comes up very often in recent times.

You see stories in the news about kids being hurt at school, hate crimes, dealing drugs, etc.- causing you to look at yourself, your friends, and your school and think, “Am I truly safe at school?”

After consulting my friends and a few teachers, I have concluded that most schools need to take proper precautions to ensure safety. We could improve our schools by making students and teachers feel protected and secure while at their place of learning/work, but I’d like to look deeper into Lafayette to evaluate this question. In recent years, after many tragedies, many schools in the US have taken precautions to up their security and safety for everyone inside the school building.

For example, in Lafayette, students must have their bags checked and go through a metal detector every morning, with no exceptions. We must also wear our I.D. badges and get a temporary or new badge if students do not have their badge when entering the building.
We all know why these precautions are taking place, but how effective are they? Many students remark that the morning bag searches are not thorough enough and make them feel unsafe. I have had experiences where my bag feels like it was barely checked at all, and the metal detector will go off, yet I am still allowed to go through.

Of course, most people groan at having their bags searched or taking everything out of their pockets so that the metal detector stops beeping. Still, I think that’s much better than risking a student carrying something harmful with them and allowing that student to be permitted into the building.

Along with the issues with the bag searches in the morning, in the past, students who had no I.D. present would sometimes slip right past the teacher’s eyes in the hallways around the school. This would happen regardless of the time of day, which raises a very blatant safety issue: A risk to students who are not supposed to be there or go to that school being able to slip in. If students aren’t required to wear the badge at all times, how are Lafayette staff supposed to know who belongs in the building and who doesn’t?

In a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, they reviewed 43 papers done by students for an English class. Of those 43 papers, 19.4% described students feeling unsafe at school, ranging from about 6-69%, depending on how unsafe they felt. In another study by Youth Truth Spotlight in 2020, they discovered that 41% of students do not feel safe at school and 46% don’t feel safe in the hallways. A student who participated in the poll and would prefer to remain anonymous stated, “I don’t like the negative energy between students. It’s not a safe environment to be around. I want to feel safe. I don’t want to feel like someone is trying to push me or cuss at me every time they’re in the way, and I’m trying to push my way through to get to class.” I also asked my Theatre class today how they felt about the safety at Lafayette. Of 18 students present, all but 3 said the school did not make them feel safe. The most common criticism was the metal detectors, with several students saying they feared how easy it could be to sneak a weapon into school.
But not everything has to do with the actual security of the school. Do students feel safe to be themselves, regardless of gender, racial identity, or sexual orientation? The majority say no; discrimination between students is a large issue at our school, with a prominent rise in bullying and hate crimes based on gender, sex, or racial identity. I asked one of my classes with 32 students if they thought discrimination was an issue at our school, and all except two students agreed adamantly.

The Lafayette Times interviewed someone who wished to remain anonymous, recognized as “A,” who gave his input on the situation. ‘A’ is a gay trans man afraid of being out in public.

The Times: Do you feel safe when you’re at school?
A: I feel pretty safe at school, but that’s only because I hide who I am. If anyone knew I was trans or gay, I would be terrified.

The Times: Do you feel like this school is inclusive to LGBTQ+ people?
A: I do; a lot of the teachers are very supportive. But many students are very discriminative and will harass you if you’re publicly out about it. And when you do report these students for bullying/harassment, the students are usually very minimally punished. These [reasons] make me scared to be outed in public.

The Times: Do you think this school takes the safety of students who are in the minority seriously?
A: I do and don’t. It’s hard to say, but I think a lot of things could be improved, as many students still feel too scared to be themselves and think of school as a “safe space.”

Overall, Lafayette needs to do more to ensure that this is a safer environment for its students, such as cracking down more on discrimination in our school, making sure those who are discriminatory are properly and thoroughly punished, being more thorough with bag checks, and ensuring all students have their I.Ds.

More precautions with IDs are taking place following recent events, where a loaded gun was found on a student at Henry Clay High School. But it is both unfortunate and frustrating that these thorough checks involving IDs are only being done when they should have been done from the start.

Ultimately, though, we as students should be doing our best to keep our school safe. Wear your I.D. badge daily, and treat everyone with kindness and respect, no matter who they are.