OH Administration Holds Town Hall Style Meeting with Students to Discuss School Safety Concerns


Ana Vardanyan

Olympic Heights principal Dave Clark addresses a gathering of students at a town hall style meeting on school safety issues held Feb. 26.

On Monday, Feb. 26, Olympic Heights principal Dave Clark hosted a town-hall style meeting with students after school to discuss the issue of school safety in light of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Clark addressed the tumultuous events of last week which included several walkouts, and he discussed ideas for improving safety measures on campus.

Clark’s discussion was followed by a question and answer period wherein students could pose questions or make suggestions of their own regarding school safety. He then turned the meeting over to the OH Student Government Association President Carly Terkiel for a further exchange of ideas.

Clark began the meeting by emphasizing that he was proud of students for demonstrating their passion for gun reform, and he asserted that pressure has to be continually applied to elected representatives to effect any change. Clark mention that although he advocates a change in gun policy, administration cannot support walkouts such as that which occurred at OH last Wednesday because they cause an enormous safety concern and strain the resources of the police and school district.

Instead, Clark hopes students can focus their energy on upcoming well-organized national events. On March 14, there is a National School Walkout where students and teachers are expected to leave class for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims from Douglas. The March for Our Lives is occurring on March 24, in Washington DC and local areas such as Parkland, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Miami. US Congresswoman Lois Frankel is scheduled to come to Olympic Heights on March 27, and Clark expresses that a huge turnout of students and parents would be beneficial. There is also a National High School Walkout planned on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

Many students contributed suggestions for improving school safety. One idea that was discussed was conducting a code red drill during a class change when the halls are crowded, since the masses of people would portray a more realistic shooting setting. There was also the idea of requiring students to wear their school ID badges in order to enter the campus, though Clark says this would likely come with troublesome enforcement issues. Many have been calling for the installation of metal detectors, but those would be logistically difficult to implement, as OH has many students and many points of entry.

The structure of OH is a larger issue overall. OH was constructed 27 years ago and is therefore built differently from most modern schools. Newer schools tend to be more compact and only have one main entrance; meanwhile, OH has a sprawling campus with several means of entery. Clark explained that Dwyer, which has a similar design as OH, has already had some reconfiguration. This means OH might see some reconstruction in coming years, particularly in front of the school.

Clark mentioned probable improvements could be a better perimeter fence without any gaps, barricades in parking lots, and guard shacks for the police aide. Clark also assured students that the additional security that is currently on campus will remain here until the end of the year.

However, much of what the school can do is limited to what the district permits. Clark hopes that next year’s budget from the district will include funds for improving security measures and allocate for more than one police officer. Fundraisers organized by OH and SGA could potentially help cover costs of new security measures.

When Terkiel took over the moderating of the meeting, she wrote down students’ suggestions to introduce to SGA so that committees might be formed to address the specified concerns. She requested for students to participate in the #whatif campaign, which requires creating a “what if” video or confessional and posting it to social media. The goal is to gain the attention of representatives.

The 535 Letters for Change organization will also be continuing its efforts (https://ohtorch.com/2654/showcase/olympic-heights-students-organize-to-effect-change-in-regards-to-school-shootings/). Thursday during both lunches, letters to representatives will be available for OH students to sign. Terkiel emphasized the absolute need for students to register to vote and continue to call on the government. “We have to keep the momentum going,” she proclaimed.