Metal wands, new pass policies among safety changes at Orlando-area schools

Students describe their first week back at school

By Ashleigh Coran - Executive Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - The start of the semester looked different for some students in Central Florida as they returned to campus to find new safety procedures, including metal wands and hardened pass policies.

The group of high school students who make up News 6's Generation Under Fire panel recently gathered to discuss what they noticed after the first week of the school.

The panel of teens started volunteering their time in April to share their concerns, views and hopes for the future following the mass school shooting in Parkland.

Brian, a senior at Dr. Phillips High School in Orange County, said one of the most visible changes was that students could not walk into the classroom late. They must go to an administrator to get a pass. Brian also explained what it was like to see the metal detectors. 

"I've noticed the wands and I've actually seen students getting wanded down in the middle of the courtyard during class change," Brian told News 6 anchor Ginger Gadsden. 

The newest panelist is from Seminole County. Camiryn, a senior at Lake Mary High School, explained the difference she experienced with the fire drill policy. 

“We have to wait in our classroom and make sure the doors are locked before we can actually leave for the fire drill which I feel could cause issues," Camiryn said. 

James, a senior at University High School in Volusia County, told how his school has a similar policy, in which students wait inside their classroom until they hear directions over the intercom. Overall, he said, he did not notice a big difference with the start of school aside from additional check-ins when students return to campus after lunch. 

In a statement from Volusia County Schools, a spokesperson said, "All our safety and security plans are designed to protect our students. Drills are conducted to ensure students understand their role as we practice responding to any emergency that may happen on any campus. The way we respond today is different than the way we responded in the past." 

A spokesperson for Seminole County Schools said that, if there is an unplanned fire pull activation, school personnel investigate the pull station while checking for smoke or fire that would prompt an immediate evacuation.

Overall, panelists said they did not feel as if the changes to security were a major disruption to their day, and they seemed hopeful for what lies ahead for the 2018-19 academic year. 

The youngest panelist believes communication is key to bringing awareness to school safety. 

“Hopefully, if we can keep talking about this, and we can get people more interested we can hopefully have a school where you don’t need to be scared to go in every day,” Boone High School sophomore Zander said.

Ryan, a senior at Windermere High School, is already thinking about college. The 17-year-old wants to be a filmmaker and hopes change is not far away. 

“In terms of the climate and the education system right now, there are a lot of things I want to change," Ryan said. "They aren’t going to change before I graduate but we need to keep having the conversation.” 

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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