'Generation Under Fire:' Teens react to school security

Students describe safety concerns for next year

By Ashleigh Coran - Executive Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - In the two months since a group of Orlando-area students met to discuss school security after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, six more school shootings have occurred nationwide, including one in Texas in which 10 people were killed.

The six local high school students who make up News 6’s "Generation Under Fire" panel, which was formed to gauge where teens stand at a time in which lockdowns and threats are becoming the norm, gathered again to follow up on their thoughts about school safety.

Among other topics, they discussed the changes they have seen since the Parkland shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, many of whom were the same age as the panelists.

Brian, a student at Dr. Phillips High School, said he has seen some minor changes in recent weeks.

“They’re more strict on hall passes and when you are released from class,” Brian said.

Zander, 14, agreed with Brian's comments and said he has noticed administrators taking a tougher stance on the “small things,” including the dress code.

“The final few weeks, there has been a heavy amount of police officers,” Zander told News 6 anchor Ginger Gadsden. “Normally, they are just in the lunchroom. Now, they are patrolling around with the golf carts.”

“Do you like that?” Gadsden asked.

“It makes you feel a little uneasy,” Zander said. “It makes you think, 'Why now?'”

Zander attends Boone High School in Orlando, where the student population is more than 2,800.

The 14-year-old was the only teen on the panel to raise his hand when the students were asked if they had experienced a lockdown since April.

“It was during testing, so it screwed everything up,” Zander said. “We sat in the auditorium for two hours until they gave the all-clear and we just went back to our day.”

Following the shooting in Parkland, Florida lawmakers passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which is aimed at creating a more secure environment for students and teachers, including a mandate for every public school to have a school resource officer.

Four out of the six students on the panel did not agree that arming teachers is the answer, but said they would consider schools having security specialists, depending on their qualifications.

James, however, noted that arming teachers might be the only solution, considering the sheer size of his school, which has nearly 3,000 students. He questioned the response time.

“One or two people would be hard to go all that way before serious damage would be done,” James said. “So I think having the teachers or specialist in every area would be better.”

The panelists had different suggestions for security changes they would like to see implemented by next school year, about three months away.

“The biggest thing for me is to have more people on campus that are trained for crisis situations,” Kira said.

Ryan and Zander pointed to more communication.

“Probably knowledge of protocol: what to do, where to go, maybe safety spots,” Ryan said. 

James described his school as being safe and said he was happy with the current security on campus.

News 6 security expert and former Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary joined the panel to offer insight on the current concerns of the community.

“I think we need to harden our schools,” Beary said. “We have schools in our state that still don’t have perimeter fencing.”

Beary suggested having peer counselors who are elected by classmates to be a liaison with local law enforcement agencies. He stressed the importance of being alert.

“We call it condition yellow. Your everyday awareness,” Beary said. 

News 6, a Graham Media Group station, has committed to following these students during the course of a year to see how their story evolves in a series called "Generation Under Fire."

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