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May 8, 2015

Student filmmakers school their peers on safety

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When a lockdown drill went wrong at a high school in Arizona, students jumped in to make their school safer in the future.

It was lunchtime last fall when administrators at South Mountain High School heard about an alleged armed person on campus. But many students were outside and did not re-enter the building quickly enough; once inside, many were locked out of classrooms.

“Some classrooms locked their doors before all of the students were in, so some students were freaking out that they couldn’t get in,” student Jose Contreras said. “And they created a lot of chaos and a lot of fear to some students.”

After the drill, administrators asked student journalists to make a video outlining what students should do in the case of an emergency.

Students soon came up with a number of questions that their school’s policy had not yet addressed, including what to do if someone is in the bathroom during a drill. The school also realized that some classrooms could be accessed during an emergency and installed two-way locks on many of the doors.

“As we began to dig through our district’s information on safety drills, we realized how little we knew and how many questions we actually had,” said teacher Heather Jancoski, who helped students make the video.

Jancoski said that schools across the country should have clear standards so that everyone knows what to do during a drill. “I’ve come to believe that we need a general vocabulary across schools—not only in the valley or the state of Arizona, but the whole U.S.—so that students have a universal understanding of what to do if an emergency occurs,” she wrote.


Warm up questions
  1. What kinds of drills do you practice at school?
  2. Does your school have an active shooter security plan in place?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why is it important to prepare for emergency scenarios like the one in the video?
  2. How can teachers and students work together to ensure school safety?
  3. What else can schools do besides drills to ensure that students and staff feel safe on campus?

This story is part of the Student Reporting Labs school safety series “The New Safe.”

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