A Town in Action: The District’s Response to the Parkland Shooting

A Town in Action: The District’s Response to the Parkland Shooting

The recent mass shooting at Parkland High School, Florida, has the entire country wondering if this can happen in their own town, as well. The tragedy has particularly resonated with teenagers; high schoolers across the country are organizing walkouts, voicing their impassioned opinions, and demanding change. Tenafly students, inspired by the nationwide call to action, are organizing a walkout and proceeding rally at the school.

On March 14th at 10 a.m., participants will take 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims that died during the Parkland school shooting. A rally will be held following this memorial where select students will give speeches that honor the tragedy, raise awareness, and challenge the nation to make real change. The organizers of the event are hoping that the walkout “transcends polarizing political beliefs and unites us as a student body,” Eli Glass (’18) said.   

Principal Morrison addressed the shooting with an announcement on THS-TV. He announced that as a community, “we are all trying to make sense out of the senseless.” He also stressed the safety of Tenafly schools and the idea that “schools are still the safest place for kids to be.” While this may be reassuring to some, many students still feel that their voice is needed to prevent tragedies like this from occurring again. Ayla Kurtagic (’18) feels that the only way to make schools safe again is if students come together and exercise their right to protest. She believes that teenagers in particular play an important role in changing the fate of this nation. “I understand that there are conflicting political views in our school, but school shootings will not stop happening, people will not stop dying, and kids will not stop getting their lives taken away from them if we, the future of this country, do not do something about this,” Kurtagic said.

Other students have found comfort in a schoolwide change in attitude. “I think that most people are shaken up by the school shooting, and even though I haven’t seen much or any change in the school’s security policies, I have noticed the student body having a different attitude towards the measures already in place,” Elizabeth Kiselev (‘18) said.   

The issue of gun violence hit especially close to home on February 26th, when a student at Dumont High School threatened to shoot up the school on social media. Upon notice of the threat, the administration immediately put the school on lockdown. Shortly after, a SWAT team arrived at the school to secure the area, and the potential shooter was taken into custody. 

In light of both the Parkland shooting and the scare in Dumont, the Tenafly Board of Education has sent out a letter briefing parents on current safety precautions and protocols in case of a school shooting. The administration is also working closely with the police department to assure that the school is as safe as it can be. “Presently, our police are visiting our schools to observe emergency drills, student arrival procedures, and entry points, to provide feedback on our practices,” Acting Superintendent Barbara Laudicina said. The administration has also already made a few changes at the elementary schools to increase safety. For example, “all visitors, including school alumni, must make an appointment in advance to visit” and “students in Safety Patrol will no longer be responsible for opening the doors in the morning.”

It is also important to remember that New Jersey has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. To own a handgun, a person must obtain a Permit to Carry. To own a shotgun or rifle, a person must have a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card. New Jersey also has laws regarding who can and cannot own firearms. According to New Jersey Law, anyone who has been convicted of a crime of aggravated assault, is mentally disabled, or who has been convicted of possession or sale of dangerous substances is not allowed to own a gun. While these measures cannot guarantee the elimination of school shootings, they are essential in decreasing gun violence.    

The administration and students alike are hoping that the increased safety precautions will create a more secure school environment in which students can focus on their schoolwork rather than their safety. As for the walkout, the student body is looking forward to exercising its activist spirit and making a difference in its corner of the world.