PHOENIX — Emotions were high at a parents' meeting that gathered on Saturday to discuss the recent lockdown at Central High School. Although most everyone in attendance called for more to be done, but it was the students whose voices rang loudest.
In the wake of Friday, students voiced their support for measures like metal detectors or backpack searches which had previously been unpopular with the younger generation.
One father suggested that metal detectors be placed at all entrances and exits, that students hand over their bags to be searched when coming onto the campus, and that students receive pat-downs.
It wasn't just parents that applauded his suggestion. Students present at the meeting cheered the idea on just as strongly.
"Now, all of you in this room, I ask you to raise your hand if you have received one or more texts from your students telling you they're scared because they go on lockdown," one Central High School senior said.
Her question was met with raised hands across the auditorium. And when she asked how many parents had gotten the "I love you text," almost all of those hands stayed up.
"Phoenix Union does not have metal detectors as you walk into campuses across our district," said Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Chad E. Gestson.
Although there was an outcry from the crowd, Dr. Geston explained, "Every year we revisit our safety policies. Every year we revisit our entrance policies. Every year we revisit the role of metal detectors. Every year we revisit the role of safety protocols and police."
Dr. Geston assured attendees that even if the district didn't have all the answers that day, they would be listening to the desire for more safeguards at school entrances.
School administrators said that they would also be considering thorough backpack searches and pat-downs in light of possible limitations that metal detectors could face.
Although police found no evidence of a shooting, students were still under lockdown for roughly two hours on Friday.
"I ask what the school is going to do for our safety," said the student, "What they actually plan on using for limiting and eliminating gun violence on our campus."
"I'm here to get an education, not run away in fear."
The meeting was a reminder of just how much difference one day could make.
In a letter Sunday, the district acknowledged how difficult Friday was for students and parents.
"Even with the absence of physical injuries, Friday was traumatic. We heard from several Central High School and Phoenix Coding Academy students and families on Friday evening and again on Saturday. There is fear and frustration. There is anger and anxiety. Staff, students, and parents have increasing concerns about school safety in general - not just in Phoenix Union but nationwide. Increased access to firearms and illegal substances, as well as the disruptions caused by social media threats and posts of violent acts, make school safety procedures and policies more important than ever."
Phoenix police said the superintendent for the district has planned to staff the school with additional security guards Monday.
Central High School said Monday, Sept 12, will be an "I-day" at the school. The school said they encourage all students who are experiencing strong emotions or trauma to come to school starting at 12:30 p.m. The school will have mental health professionals on campus to support in small groups or one-on-one settings.
The district has also launched a district-wide safety committee that will allow parents and students to share their experiences and suggestions for improvement with this committee.
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