Staff Editorial: BVH should be better equipped to respond to active shooter threats

April 8, 2019

Two threats of opening fire on BVH’s campus tomorrow, Monday, April 8, were recently posted on social media. With the help of the Chula Vista Police Department, administrators deemed the threat to be unsubstantiated and have decided to continue school as normal, but are enlisting law enforcement officials to be on campus as a precaution.

The following staff editorial was published in the Crusader’s fifth issue on March 22, before the recent threats, but following a similar occurrence at Southwestern College.

A mere walk across the street from Bonita Vista High School (BVH), Southwestern College (SWC) was alleged to have an active shooter in its library on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Then, many BVH students didn’t know why helicopters flew above them. In fact, many didn’t know that there was an alleged shooter—less than a mile away from BVH—at all.

Roughly five minutes after SWC sent out alerts to its students of the alleged attack, BVH administrators announced a lockdown over the intercom. By then, a minority of students were already aware of the development through the SWC notifications, while most continued to sit in unlocked classrooms or wandered through hallways.

Although this response time may sound insignificant, time is of the essence in life-or-death situations. Should a potential shooter have been present at BVH, some students may have found out about the threat in a more direct, tragic way before a lockdown was announced.

Thankfully, no shooter actually existed and Chula Vista police issued an all-clear, lifting the lockdowns at SWC and BVH. Nevertheless, the event tested the community’s readiness to handle these dire situations; and while the response of administrators was largely a commendable one, improved preparation is always possible.

Vox reported at the end of last year that 2018 had the highest number of school shootings on record and that the problem only seems to be getting worse. As the ALICE Training Institute puts it: nowadays, when it comes to school shootings, “It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”

For the most part, the Sweetwater Union High School District has made admirable responses to shooting tragedies that make national headlines. After Sandy Hook, the district formed a committee known as the Security Work Group, which is made up of teacher volunteers who seek to provide schools with the necessary preparation for dangerous circumstances on campuses, and after Parkland, several lockdown drills were held at SUHSD schools.

However, as SUHSD Security Coordinator and Advisor John Czajkowski explained in an interview with the Crusader in March of 2018, “Ultimately, individual schools have to take leadership and ownership of threat preparedness,” and there are multiple steps BVH can take to achieve these ends.

Lockdowns required by the federal Department of Education have become routine to most students, so much so that they have blurred the reality of the situations that they are intended to prepare for. As recent school shootings have shown, and as ALICE explains, students need more response options than simply sitting in a classroom with the lights off.

Thankfully, ALICE offers age-appropriate training designed specifically for K-12 schools that revolves around five steps: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. The last two prongs to the ALICE system—counter and evacuate—are what distinguish it from the current SUHSD system.

In the ALICE system, students are taught how to respond if an active shooter enters their classroom. The idea is that a class of 35 students who fight back against an attacker have a much higher chance of survival compared to a class of 35 students who hide behind desks.

So far, almost 4 thousand schools across the nation have introduced the training system. All have been lucky enough to never experience a school shooting, but if they ever do, their students will be ready.

Another measure is known as the ARMS approach, which stands for assess, refer to a therapist or counselor, monitor and support. It aims to prevent attacks before they happen through strong communication networks that extend throughout the community.

At BVH, this manifests itself as the P3 Tips app introduced at the beginning of this school year, which allows students to report suspicious activity to officials. It is systems like these that serve as reminders that the promise for a safer campus is one that requires the work of not only administration, but the community at large.

Whatever the exact course of action, the answer is clear: BVH can and should do more to ensure that it is capable of handling the dire possibility of an active shooter on campus. In order to have a safe, secure campus, we can’t just be able to get ready; we need to stay ready.

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