Student Voices

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April 7, 2015

What I learned when someone made violent threats in my school

THE WHISTLEBLOWER from Student Reporting Labs on Vimeo.
By Nick Weiss

“Intruder, intruder, intruder.”

“There’s an intruder in the science hallway.”

“Intruder, intruder, intruder.”

A monotonous voice chimes over the intercom at Cedar Crest High School during an intruder training drill, as students push desks and lock doors nonchalantly in order to “save” themselves from some imaginary homicidal maniac. Nobody is taking the drill seriously and everyone’s thinking the same thing: “This would never really happen at Cedar Crest.”

Honestly, when that drill took place last year during my junior year, I was thinking the same thing. You only see shootings like that on the news, and Lebanon, Pennsylvania never makes the news, let alone Cedar Crest High School. The most cataclysmic event we’ve ever experienced is the basketball team losing the district championship game.

But on March 6, 2014, Cedar Crest DID make the news. And nobody here will ever forget it.

My cousin, Matt Garrett, was sitting with a group of students at lunch when two of those students, freshmen, began bringing up a plan to shoot up the school. “Most of us thought it was just a joke but then they showed us a map and I was like, ‘that’s too far,’” Matt told me. After that, Matt and few other students decided to turn in the potential shooters to administration.

When they were arrested that same day, the public heard about the situation from a district-wide message service. The map that the students had shown my cousin got the case subpoenaed to court, where he had to testify. The two CCHS freshmen were charged with criminal conspiracy and attempt to commit aggravated assault and terroristic threats. They also had access to firearms. Neither of them are still at Cedar Crest.

“This was the most serious thing local law enforcement has seen in years,” building principal Nicole Malinoski said.

Matt and the other students who came forward saved lives, Cedar Crest district police officer Justin Schlottman said.

“We can’t be everywhere all the time. The students, those are extra sets of eyes, those are extra people in your community that can help protect it,” he said.

Judging by the attendance record the day after the threat, it’s safe to say the community was legitimately disturbed, but everyone realized that all it took for Cedar Crest to be saved was the vigilance of a few and their courage to come forward. This didn’t stop the school board from voting to arm their district police officers, but it promoted the idea of community policing. Now, when there’s an intruder drill, there’s less eye-rolling.

Students attending a school need to realize that they’re a part of a community and as a member of that community, you have a responsibility to protect it. Arming security and outfitting locks on doors are effective means of protection, but students should be taught to protect their peers with their ears, as an equally important preventative method.

Lebanon, Pennsylvania, is known for bologna. If it could happen here, in Amish cow-town, it could happen anywhere, so listen up: protect your fellow classmates and don’t let a badge be the only line of defense between you and a shooter. Sometimes the courage to come forward is all the courage it takes to save dozens, if not hundreds, of lives.

Nick Weiss is a senior at Cedar Crest High School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. His story is part of the Student Reporting Labs school safety series “The New Safe.”

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