By Samantha Dietel, Current Staff
Not everyone is satisfied with the safety of the West Bend High Schools.
After the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., both students and staff at WBHS have expressed their own concerns about the building’s safety. Some even believe that the school would be unprepared for an attack similar to what occurred in Parkland.
“I feel we have a lot of vulnerabilities,” said West social studies teacher Aaron Paulin when asked about his concerns regarding safety at WBHS. “I’m not sure our students know what to do in an emergency situation. I really feel as if we’re unprepared. I feel the staff is marginally prepared, because we practiced ALICE last year, but we haven’t reviewed it.”
Last June, Paulin and other high school staff members received ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training that was intended to help prepare them for different intruder scenarios. However, according to Paulin, there has not been any sort of review for the teachers that were involved with the experience.
When asked about plans for more ALICE training, East principal Darci VanAdestine explained that WBHS partners with the West Bend Police Department to coordinate follow-up ALICE trainings.
West science teacher Paul DeLain is unsure about the readiness of the high schools, despite the special training that many of the teachers have received.
“I don’t know if this building is prepared,” DeLain said. “We have too many doors and we have too many doors unsecure from too many people leaving the building, on purpose or sneaking out, and then propping doors behind them or not letting them close.”
Danielle Konstanz, an English teacher at West, is also concerned about the building’s numerous doors that cannot always be monitored.
“We have so many doors in this building that we all can’t watch, and that concerns me,” she said. “I know that they’re locked, but all it takes is just one person to leave it open on accident.”
DeLain is faced with concerns regarding the number of students that regularly walk the halls during class time.
“We still have too many students in non-academic areas,” he said. “When the sixth hour bell rings, everybody should be accounted for someplace. There’s too many kids strolling with earbuds and phones and bathroom passes to wherever they want, taking their time. Those to me are people that can open doors.”
WBHS has made efforts to minimize the number of wandering students by making some teachers hall monitors during their supervision period.
West sophomore Amanda Patrick expressed concerns about safety in the cafeterias.
“We were always taught that (if there’s an intruder) you sit in the corner so you can see around you and you know there’s nothing behind you,” she said. “But all the corners in the cafeteria are doors, or it’s a window. There are two safe spaces; there’s one against where the vending machines are and the back wall, but even then there are the two doors on either side. It’s still not the safest area.”
In response, West assistant principal Patrick O’Connor says that he does not feel unsafe in the cafeteria. Nearly every day, he monitors the West cafeteria during lunch time, and there are other staff members at the doors as well.
“I personally don’t feel unsafe in the cafeteria,” he said. “The doors should be shut in the cafeteria. The students should always be exiting through a staff member at the door.”
West sophomore Morgan Wahouske has worries about the security of the high schools’ entrances. She feels that when she arrives at school in the morning, there is nothing there to stop students from bringing in a concealed weapon.
“We have a camera there, but you can’t really do much against it,” she said. “They can still break into the window. If we could have bulletproof glass, or some sort of metal detector or scanner so that we know if someone has something on them that they shouldn’t.”
She added that she is aware that precautions like metal detectors can be quite expensive, but she thinks that a schoolwide fundraiser might be an option to cover the costs.
According to West principal Ralph Schlass, there have not been any discussions about introducing metal detectors to the high schools.
“That’s something that isn’t going to be a decision made lightly, if we do go to that,” Schlass said. “That’s something that we’ll have to have a conversation with the community about because it is a drastic step. Going through any kind of screening like that, it feels like a little bit of an invasion of privacy. But at the same time, that might be the price people pay just to make sure everybody’s safe. Just because one person might not like it, or people don’t like it, isn’t a reason not to do it. There’s a lot of factors to consider before you go there, including manpower and cost, but again, I don’t think any price is too steep for any student’s life.”
DeLain believes that any concerns or suspicions that students may have should be reported, just as the phrase “if you see or hear something, say something” encourages.
“Anything that’s heard or seen that is suspicious should be confided in with a teacher or an administrator, and if it’s nothing, so be it,” he said. “But if it isn’t, it could be the difference between a bad day and a good day here. All of us got to watch out for each other. All of us got to watch out for the building.”
(This article is part of an ongoing series of stories about school safety. Video: A quick scan of the West Bend East High School cafeteria layout shows many windows in each corner. Video taken today by Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief.)