In the Wake of Violence, Keeping North Point Safe


For students and staff at North Point, Friday, December 14th was a typical day at school. Nothing deviated from the well trodden norms of the daily grind. But at a different school, in a different slice of America about 300 miles away, the idea of normalcy had been shattered, perhaps forever. On the morning of the 14th, a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, CT. By the time the violence had ended, twenty students and six members of the staff had lost their lives.

According to one expert quoted in the New York Daily News, the likelihood of being killed in a mass shooting in the United States is still around the same as being struck by lightning. Yet, there is a common feeling that these shocking incidents, the horrifying events that turn the national conversation to one subject and one purpose, are happening more often. The average person can list them in rapid succession with simple keywords that everyone recognizes: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, Aurora, Newtown. What frightens is not necessarily the violence itself. It is the feeling that terror can strike anywhere. What made Virginia Tech any different from the University of Maryland? What made the Safeway where Giffords was shot any different from either Safeway in Waldorf? What made Sandy Hook Elementary any different from North Point, or any one of the other thousand public schools in the United States?

If the answer is nothing, that nothing inherently protects us from what happened to them, then a new question is posed. What can North Point do to ensure the safety of its students and staff?

So far, the most noticeable change was the creation of a staff-only and a student-only parking lot to replace the two previously mixed use lots. “It’s something we’ve been talking about since the before the [Sandy Hook] incident occurred,” said Mr. Mast, a Vice Principal. “We thought it may be a solution to several problems.” By having one primary entrance and exit for students every day, it will become easier for administration to funnel students in one direction and spot anyone who is out of place.

As for the gate to be erected in front of the staff lot, plans are not concrete as to what form it will take. At the January Parent-Teacher-Student Organization meeting, Hill agreed that the gate would be foremost a “psychological barrier.” She added, “Our most vulnerable exit is pool side.”

Many students are dubious on the new measures. “Some things are out of our control,” said Bri Busch (’13). “The only surefire way to avoid any trouble is to close the building. Now, we all know that is ridiculous and it is never going to happen.” Busch stressed that for every security hole closed, there are more left open.

It seems that the best method of preventing a dangerous incident at North Point does not lie in using new technology, but simple human resources: students and staff. Recently, an incident occurred in which two adults, unaffiliated with the school, entered campus and forcibly took a student’s shoes. The victim notified a teacher, who notified administration, who notified the school resource officer. The wrongdoers were apprehended before they could leave the area. “Everyone reacted the way we want them to,” said Mast. And in order to prevent such incidents and anything worse from happening in the future, everyone has to keep reacting in the same way.