Despite figures, Blair maintains safe aura
Thirty-one percent of students nationwide ages 12 to 17 know someone their age who carries a gun. In just one year, 20 percent of all public schools experienced at least one violent crime. In the 1997-1998 school year, 20,286 physical attacks involving weapons occurred at schools.
Whether Americans are ready to admit the truth or not, violence is becoming increasingly common in schools across the nation. How safe students are at schools is a question arising in PTA gatherings, security consults and office meetings nationwide. The shocking answer is: not very.
In the past decade, schools have seen a drastic increase in violence involving students, brought to the attention of news by the Columbine tragedy in 1999, which left 12 students and one teacher dead. In the six years since Columbine, schools nationwide have increased their security -- except for Blair.
Although Blair's population has increased since opening, no funding for additional security personnel has been granted to the school. Blair's security force consists of seven guards, one guard for every 470 students who attend the school. Other Montgomery County Public Schools have fewer students per security staff. For example, at Bethesda-Chevy Chase there is one security team member for every 335 students and at Walter Johnson there is one guard for every 405 students. Despite these unnerving ratios, the Blair security team feels that Blair's safety is at its best.
"Veteran staff have been here for a while," explains Blair Security Team Leader Edward Reddick. "[We] know the school in and out." With the assistance of his other security team members, he helps monitor cameras, check students for IDs and patrol the hallways. Reddick and his team, under the direction of Principal Phillip Gainous, help provide the safest possible learning conditions at Blair. This includes the additional assistance of two or three police officers at Blair.
Generally, Blazers feel that Blair has a relatively safe atmosphere, but that it could be improved with more security. Junior Bao-Ngoc Nguyen feels that the disproportionate ratio between guards and students is the biggest problem at Blair. "What's a safe ratio? One to ten would be best, but then we would have security everywhere," says Nguyen. MCPS has been honored nationwide for its precise and accurate safety measures during emergencies.
For example, during the 2002 sniper attacks MCPS promptly implemented a Code Blue county wide for 22 days until students could safely resume normal studies. A Code Blue, which bans students from going outside and wandering in the halls, is one of two emergency drills that MCPS employs to provide safety for students.
Compared to other schools, Blair has a highly efficient security team, as most schools in the country have very low-level security measures. Nationwide, only eleven percent of schools have moderate security measures, which include at least one full-time guard and another part-time guard. However, 84 percent of schools have restricted access, but no security guards or metal detectors to prevent violence.
The recent institution of one police officer at every high school in Montgomery County has been planned to dramatically reduce violence in schools. Even with the current security team, which Reddick explains must simply "work a little harder" to balance the ratio, students feel safe in the Blair community. However, Nguyen maintains that "if anything happened to you, no one would really know." Until Montgomery County recognizes the Blair security team's overwhelming task, Blazers will just have to hope that Blair doesn't become another statistic in the records of school violence.
Alexis Egan. Alexis is a (very) short junior, who is very pleased to be writing for Chips Online with all her friends. Along with writing, her other hobbies are playing soccer, reading about Mount Everest and listening to any Irish music. Her favorite movie is The Princess ... More »