Content Warning: This article discusses potentially upsetting themes such as violence and school shootings.
School safety is an extremely sensitive and complex topic affecting students, parents, and staff here at Franklin High School (FHS). As humans, we are naturally concerned about our safety. With the world we live in today, that feeling is enhanced more than ever. Franklin is a huge school, with 2,002 students and approximately 150 to 175 staff members. It begs the question, how safe is Franklin?
According to the FBI, Oregon is a safe state in comparison to the rest of the country. In 2020, the United States had a national violent crime rate of approximately 398.5 crimes for every 100,000 people. Oregon dips below that with a rate of 291.9 crimes per every 100,000 people in the same year. Portland, as well as Franklin fall under this relatively safe umbrella. Like any school, Franklin has its breadth of issues, but with that come some benefits. Those benefits include a good facility and a strong community. FHS is far from perfect. However, in my time here we haven’t had any major incidents like gun violence, sprawling brawls, or intruders coming on to campus. Due to this, I think overall Franklin feels like a relatively safe place where staff can go to work and students can go to learn.
According to Osa Osene, a campus safety agent here at Franklin, the school has around 120 cameras throughout and around the building which give eyes and ears across the building allowing staff to secure all entrances. He does hope this number can be increased to help cover more of the blindspots around campus. Another thing the building has that we often take for granted is good doors. “Doors lock when they [are] supposed to lock, doors open when they [are] supposed to open,” as Osene puts it. When talking with students and staff alike, none of them shared a time when their safety was majorly threatened at Franklin. “Nothing big,” say’s Phebe Doukas, a junior at FHS. Neither has Kainoa Hosaka, another junior enrolled at Franklin. “I’ve personally never felt threatened,” he says.
Scott Burns, one of the vice principals at Franklin, is in charge of coordinating with safety agents. “Safety is always something schools are focused on,” says Burns. He also believes that Franklin is a safe school due to students and teachers following the policies that are put in place. “You may think hall passes are so trivial, but there is a safety reason and a security reason for that,” explains Burns. Administrators want students to continue to follow the policies in place to make the school even safer; as Burns says, “trust that what we are asking them to do, is for their safety.”
On a more large-scale level, all people are different. As Osene puts it, “some kids feel amazingly safe here, some kids do not.” However, one thing that’s a very sensitive issue on practically everyone’s mind is rampant gun violence in schools. Hosaka says, “there is always that lingering question of, will there be a school shooting today?” This fear is justified in American schools today with approximately 30 shootings reported this year alone. Doukas believes the sensitivity around this topic has caused students to be largely uneducated about what to do in the event of a shooter: “it’s a very intense topic, but I feel like we are not prepared for what happens if there is a school shooter— like is there a specific corner of the classroom to go to?,” Doukas shares.
Another challenge of Franklin is the huge population. With so many different students from different backgrounds and so few staff, it can be hard for staff to build a connection with students. “Some kids will put a wall up, some even a few walls up,” says Osene. Another point of worry that Doukas sees is, “small quarrels in the hallways always make me feel nervous; hallways are a crowded space and people become so unaware.” She adds, “I feel like that’s the time something might go wrong.”
Osene strongly urges students to “treat this school like your home” by taking care of other students and the FHS facility. Doukas believes FHS should implement “more drills revolving around intruders, school shooters, or if someone just brought a weapon onto campus.” Another very important aspect of safety that isn’t often taught in schools is the bystander effect. Often people can feel helpless in a scary situation. “One thing is dismantling the bystander effect, and realizing there is something you can do like finding an adult to help, or saying ‘hey that’s not ok,’” says Doukas. School and gun violence are difficult topics. A few crucial things the FHS community can do to make the school a safer place is to be respectful, smart, kind, and most of all understanding.