How safe is DHS?


Jonathan Bacdayan

Should any doors be left open at DHS? How safe are we?

School was seen as a place where adolescents can grow their minds and character, but in recent years the safety of such institutions has been brought into further debate. 2021 marked a devastating new reality: the highest number of those killed or wounded in school shootings, 193 individuals, excluding shooters. That is unparalleled by all previous years. With such a staggering statistic, it is hard not to fear students’ and teachers’ safety. 

The reality is that yes, the dynamic of school safety has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, but so have school safety policies. New measures have been put in place to prevent such incidents, and handle the worst case scenario in a way to protect as many as possible. It is important to note that gun violence is prevalent in a variety of settings, markets, and hospitals, more recently seen, so learning how to react is a skill necessary for the times. Mirroring cold war training, when children were taught to duck and cover, in the event of a nuclear attack, ALICE teaches children to react in the worst case as a tool to provide security and preparedness for students, throughout life. 

It is a safe school, we have a lot of different measures in place.

— DHS Principal Ross Thibault

ALICE, an acronym for alert lockdown inform counter evacuate, has been a practice put in place to properly react to a shooting. ALICE can be applied anywhere, shopping centers, gas stations, hospitals, to keep a clear head in a situation no one wants to be in. 

In response to the Uvalde shooting, the Dartmouth Police announced Wednesday that Dartmouth Public Schools should expect to see an increase in security as the school year comes to a close. Other school districts in the area, such as Westport, have put in place similar increases, as a way to provide a greater sense of security for the students and wider school community. 

Administration stresses the probability of such events are very low, one in ten million, but to be prepared is an extra precaution to ensure students. Younger children, of the elementary age, can find it especially hard to cope. Being exposed to hard reality is incomprehensible to children, who often think of school as a second home. The how and why is difficult for children to understand, especially since we as adults can’t justify it ourselves. In the same vein, Ross Thibault, DHS principal stresses the importance of mental health. “Sharing information that gets someone the help that they need could be what prevents one of these tragedies from occurring” he said. Awareness about mental health, especially in adolescent peers, is vital to nurture a safe school community. 

“There’s so much we can do. It starts with being aware,” Mr. Thibault said in a statement to The Spectrum. Part of being aware requires students to look at the bigger picture. Propping a door open for a friend who is running late may seem futile at the time, but it compromises safety, and is an unnecessary risk when there are systems in place to check in late students. 

“It is a safe school, we have a lot of different measures in place,” said Mr. Thibault, noting the prevalence of cameras, drills, and security in the school to protect its integrity.

Political change in D.C. is often too late or too little, so turning inward to communities and individuals is vital. Without change on the federal level, we must change ourselves. We cannot ensure federal measures in reaction to such events. However we as individuals can continue to follow the “see something say something,” policy and continue to  support our community as well as others by trusting our administrators and contacting local political leaders with bigger questions.

Mr. Thibault shares a sentiment much of the nation echoes. “I hope that the Uvalde Texas shooting is the last time. That would be naive, but I do hope that we have no more of these tragic events,” he said. 

We all share the same frail hope and mourn the loss of precious lives lost in that tragic event, and sympathize with the lives deeply affected by the shooting.