I honestly feel like I have not taken in a full and complete breath after seeing, hearing, and reading about the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. How do we even discuss, much less ascribe meaning, to this event and the many random shootings that have occurred, especially those on campuses, in recent times? I vividly remember when a student was shot on campus during the school day during my very first year of teaching. Fortunately, the victim survived, but many of us carried deep scars. I remember the regular drills that ensued for the next two years. Yet, this senseless tragedy was rooted in an attempted robbery, providing a sense of context and meaning to the event. Today’s world with its recent school massacres is much more disturbing, unsettling, and scary. Such tragedies test the faith of the faithful, and nothing is more tragic than seeing such young lives end prematurely and unnaturally. And though God is still God, my grief is real, and I know that yours is too.
Grief and heartbreak over recent events have begun to transition to anger, frustration, and resentment, as well as a sharp series of questions beginning with what can and what should we (nationally, locally, and right here) actually do about the mass shootings, especially the school shootings.
Our administrative team has been discussing safety and security issues for several years. We have conducted severe weather, fire, and lockdown drills each year. Three years ago we began keeping the exterior doors locked to the Early Childhood and Lower School buildings. We reviewed and revised our safety plans. We also reviewed and redesigned car line with the input of officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation and City of Perry Police. Division Directors have regularly reviewed safety protocols with faculty. Our school counselor and the faculty have been vigilant about looking for, and addressing concerns about student mental health and any other issue that might cause a potential threat to safety. However, what can be done to further secure the campus?
I have heard many ideas about further improving the safety of our campus. Some of the ideas are fairly simple and relatively inexpensive, while other ideas are far more costly. Everyone that I talk to about this important issue can come up with a variety of ideas, and what I want to know is, which ideas are best and what are the priorities? The Board of Trustees and I take the safety and security of our campus very seriously. After much discussion, we have agreed that a consultation with a respected security agency specializing in school safety would be helpful in terms of setting safety and security priorities in both the short and long term. We are actively seeking proposals for such a consult. In the meantime, we will continue working with faculty, staff, students, and local law enforcement to refine and follow current safety protocols.
I ask that you continue to join us in praying for God’s wisdom and God’s protection for Westfield and for schools throughout our community and nation.