Guest Writer: Locking school entrances damages culture, does little to improve security


The Newtonite

by Téa Baum
At last week’s X-block meeting concerning the Parkland shooting, it came to my attention that the administration is considering locking every entrance into Newton North, except the Tiger Drive entrance, during school hours. I believe that the students of Newton North should be made aware of this possibility, so we have the chance to share our opinions.
While I understand that this quick change does respond to the community’s fears by adding increased security, I would argue that locking our school will contribute little in terms of keeping kids and educators safe. Locking our school is, in many ways, siding with President Donald Trump’s position of arming teachers—it is an attempt to shield ourselves from the problem rather than fixing it.
If anyone actually plans on shooting up a school, they will find a way—locking the doors will not prevent it, as there are other ways of breaking into a school. Even armed guards won’t prevent it, considering there was a decorated, armed sheriff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting. The idea that locking our building is going to get rid of the problem is wrong. Frankly, it is a band-aid rather than a cure. It is a temporary fix for a much larger issue—the only effective solution is limiting access to guns.
A reason I love Newton North is the school’s welcoming and open environment. Being able to hangout in the courtyard, play frisbee during Lunch, talk with friends on the football field—these are all a big part of our school’s culture. The school’s environment fosters students that are independent, resilient, and not sheltered from the real world. It helps students transition into adulthood. It symbolizes our resilience and that we, as a community, do not give into fear.
If Newton North decides to lock all of its doors, our school environment will transform. Instead of the openness of our campus all of our students love and enjoy, our school will become a fortress. School will feel like a prison and Newtonville and everything outside will feel dangerous. Locked doors will create an illusion of high security and will only result in constant anxiety of potential threats. We run the risk of falling into the same dangerous pattern other schools around the state have; over militarization in the name of security. Newton is already a bubble—it is one of the safest communities in America. If we lock our doors, we’re only creating a bigger bubble.
School security is not a cut and dry issue, with certain dangerous areas needing some level of protection, but as a Massachusetts school, a state which egregiously perpetrates the school to prison pipeline, are we really going to take steps to further institutionalize our community?
Locking the school’s doors is disruptive for our community. Seventy percent of students live closer to the Theatre Entrance than to Tiger Drive, as well as the commuter rail and school and public buses. These may seem like minor inconveniences, but, with a school start time already set early, based on a 19th Century agrarian lifestyle, it will mean students wake up even earlier, and will undo the city’s efforts to push back the school start time.
By all accounts, the “mass shooting generation” of kids is the most anxious in memory. If every school in the nation locked all of their doors, it would only deepen the epidemic of anxiety. This is an anxious time for everyone, and we need to think strategically, as a community, for a long term solution. This new security measure will only reinforce the notion that the gun problem is not solvable. It is solvable! Choosing to lock the school is playing into the hands of extremists who are trying to bring weapons of war into every facet of American life. They want America to accept the presence of guns and adapt to it.
Newton North must refuse to adapt. There are steps that we, as a community, can take to pressure our leaders into making meaningful change. The walkout last Thursday was the first step in the right direction, but it does not end there. We can hold a “townhall” of the entire school where both students and faculty can have their voices heard. We can educate students on the issues at hand and encourage civic engagement by organizing a day of educational assemblies centered around gun violence. We can unite Newton’s schools and local government to organize further activism within the larger community. We can start by acknowledging the problem during school hours. It is important that teachers educate students on how to be politically active, especially on an issue that directly impacts the school. Teachers, students, and the administration must work together to continue this conversation. It’s always easier to put off conversations about unpleasant topics.  The difficult conversations are the most important, for it is these that create change.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
The opinions expressed in this article are from a guest writer and do not represent the official stance of The Newtonite as a publication.