A look at how safe we are at Aquinas
Since 2013, there have been at least 166 school shootings in America — an average of nearly one a week. This staggering statistic might evoke a sense of fear in some people.
In the 1970’s, Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter tried to explain “situations where outcomes do not seem intuitively consistent with the underlying individual preferences.” The gun violence epidemic would seem to fit this description.
Granovetter used riots as one of his main examples in his article. The “mob mentality” that occurs during a riot causes ordinary people to do unordinary acts of violence and rebellion.
Malcolm Gladwell, a writer for The New Yorker, explained that, “a riot [is] a social process, in which people [do] things in reaction to and in combination with those around them. Social processes are driven by our thresholds—which he defined as the number of people who need to be doing some activity before we agree to join them.”
According to Granovetter, riots are started by people with a threshold of zero. These people need little to no incitement before they will throw a rock.The people with a threshold of one come next, they will throw a rock after someone else does it first. This pattern continues until an upstanding citizen who would never think of throwing rocks, joins in because of the vast number of their fellow citizens who are participating.
This lead Gladwell to ask, “What if the way to explain the school-shooting epidemic is to go back and use the Granovetterian model—to think of it as a slow-motion, ever-evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before?”
Gladwell is saying that these school shooters have been building on each other. Starting with Eric Harris and the Columbine shooting in 1999, the “riot” has been evolving. Eric Harris had a threshold of zero. Then, in progression, each successive shooter has had a higher threshold. This explains why there are sane, unprovoked gunmen walking into schools.
As people try to explain and stop the school shooting epidemic, administrators at Aquinas have been examining the security measures taken within the school building.
Dr. Mike Sullivan, Principal of Student Services, said, “In general, gun violence has increased in our society and of course we worry for the safety of our students and community at Saint Thomas Aquinas.”
Aquinas administrators have adopted a policy of preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. During school hours, all doors are locked. The only door that remains unlocked is in the commons, in plain sight of our School Resource Officer, Officer Ufford. There are camera strategically place around the school and parking lots that are monitored in the Attendance Office. If a door has been open for too long, and alarm will sound to alert the administration.
Even with all of the current security, there is currently a plan for the SMC building to be enclosed with STA. This should make the school even safer for all, creating only one pinch point.
Aquinas’ Student Resource Officer, Ken Ufford said, “Of course you can always hire more security, but we need to all think of each and every student and staff member in this building as security and providing information.”
In order to keep students completely safe, schools would have to go to ridiculous measures. Sullivan stated that we could ensure the safety of all students if we had a building with no windows and only one door. At that door, there could be metal detectors and guards. This would make schools like prisons. Also, all of the doors at Aquinas actually ensure the safety of the students in case of a fire.
Ufford said, “All buildings have requirements to have so many doors to egress. This is a fire code issue. All schools have the same requirement.”
When students are asked what their favorite part about Aquinas is, most respond that it is the sense of community.
Sullivan said, “Saint Thomas Aquinas is one big family and we look out for each other. Basically have each other’s back. This includes alumni, staff and families.”
If something does not look right, students should, and often will, report it to the proper person. Aquinas strives to have each student feel like a part of the family and develop a good relationship with an adult at school.
“If all students feel comfortable with speaking to at least one adult and hopefully more than one, that helps keep our school safer,” Sullivan said. “Building relationships is very important in school safety. We must continue to develop the mantra ‘see Something, say Something’.”