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When I went to Fishers High School last Wednesday, I went through a set of unlocked doors, followed by locked doors with a buzzer next to it. I pressed the buzzer. A door to the visitors office unlocked and I had to have my photo taken and my ID scanned.
“Do you have an appointment?” the secretary asked.
“No,” I said.
“You can’t get into the school without an appointment.”
Two hours later, I heard that a 19-year-old gunman shot and killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
As school shootings are becoming more common, high school officials are re-examining security and putting in new protective measures. But making sure college campuses are prepared for an active shooter scenario is trickier, Officer John Conley of Butler University Police Department said, as there are so many buildings spread out on campus.
“The dynamics of our campus is different than a high school, where everything is contained to one building,” Conley said.
Butler has locked doors that only open when IDs are scanned, but often, this is only at certain times of day. However, the campus is installing more doors that are locked from the inside.
Conley has been a police officer for 43 years and has been at Butler for three years. He said students should watch a video that Butler University produced in 2016 that details ways to thwart an active shooter.
The video, shown at many universities nationwide, stresses the importance of running, hiding and fighting in an active shooter scenario. The university shows it to first-year students during orientation, and students may request police to come speak with them about the video and go over options in the event that a shooting occurs.
“We have been pushing for the last couple years as much training as possible, trying to get out the message for people to view the video and take what the video says to heart about being prepared,” Conley said. “It’s a matter of being prepared every day and [having] an awareness of your surroundings.”
When senior English major Cecilia Robbins was in her first year at Purdue in 2014, former teacher’s assistant Cody Cousins shot another teacher’s assistant five times and stabbed him 19 times, Fox 59 News reported. The school went on lockdown. Cousins was sentenced to 65 years.
“We got an alert, like a Dawg Alert, saying that there was an active shooter situation,” Robbins said. “My teacher just locked the one door to the classroom and kept on teaching. We thought it was a drill at first.”
Robbins got a second message saying it was not a drill. They shut of all the lights and made no noise for an hour and a half. Classes were cancelled via the professor’s discretion.
“For the rest of my day, I was calling my family,” Robbins said. “I never thought it would happen at Purdue. But this could happen anywhere.”
Robbins transferred to Butler in 2016, but the experience shaped how she thinks about being safe on campus. She will never text while going to class or put on headphones until she is safely at a desk in her class. She always scans the room and watches exits. She also keeps pepper spray and a pocket knife on her at all times. She is now hyper-aware of her surroundings.
There are no weapons allowed on Butler University’s campus. But after the Florida shooting, freshman political science major Zach Gossett posed a hypothetical question:
“I was wondering, if weapons were allowed on campus, if I should carry a knife or pepper spray, if I could do anything to protect myself and my peers,” Gossett said. “I probably would.”
In 2017, Indiana Representative Jim Lucas authored a proposed bill that would prohibit state schools from “imposing an enactment, measure, policy, or rule that prohibits or limits the legal carrying, possession, or transportation of a firearm while on land; or in a building or other structure; leased or owned by the state educational institution.”
This bill died in a regular session. Gossett did not have a strong opinion on the matter of guns on campus, saying that it might help or hurt the situation if an active shooter got on campus.
“I’m a little concerned about safety in the sense of gun owners knowing how to be in that situation and not get caught in the crossfire,” Gossett said.
Gossett would feel safer if civilians had guns in an active shooter scenario, provided they knew how to properly use them.
Conley does not advise putting guns in the hands of civilians on campuses.
“As a police officer, we are more apt to see an accidental shooting than an intentional one,’ Conley said. “The more people you have carrying guns to college campuses, the more chances of there being an accidental thing that happens.”
According to the Gun Violence Archive, so far this year, there have been 7,834 incidents of gun violence, including 34 mass shootings, 394 teens killed or injured, and 42 officers shot or killed. Of all the incidents, 2,041 shooting resulted in death and 237 were accidental.
On the whole, Robbins still feels relatively safe on campus.
“There’s always going to be worries in my mind, but right now I’m not concerned,” Robbins said. “I trust the Butler police department… I am confident in Butler’s police force. I’ve had positive interactions with them.”
Conley said that being a police officer at Butler is “a very meaningful job” that he takes very seriously.
“Not only are there thousands of students, but thousands of sets of parents that are dependent on the safety of their student,” Conley added.
Again, he stresses running, hiding and if necessary, attacking the shooter.
“[Think] ‘Don’t be a victim today,’” Conley said. “Think about the action you have to take to defend your life.”
That action includes being proactive and making sure you say something if you see suspicious activity.
“Individuals that are of sound mind do not do this, and you wonder what went wrong somewhere,” Conley said. “And you wonder as a person, ‘I need to be more aware. If I have a friend or see someone I think is struggling, I need to make sure I reach out to someone for help.’”
The night of Feb. 14, almost every news organization broadcasted the statistic that the Parkland shooting was the 18th school shooting in the United States in 2018. This has since proven to be misleading, as it depends on the definition of school grounds. CNN has said that there have been eight school shootings this year in the United States, and it’s only February.
“If it could happen in a high school in Florida, it could happen here,” Conley said.