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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

EDITORIAL: With the fear of deadly violence now a fixture in American schools, students deserve better communication when metal detectors and a “hold” disrupt normal operations

Townsend+Harris+High+School+students+face+an+unexpected+metal+detector+and+hold+during+class+on+September+26.
Katherine Lian
Townsend Harris High School students face an unexpected metal detector and “hold” during class on September 26.
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On the morning of September 26, Harrisites arrived at Townsend Harris High School to find the New York Police Department’s School Safety Division, conducting a “random scanning,” according to Principal Brian Condon.

According to the NYC Department of Education, random scannings can be “implemented based on either a random selection or in response to conditions or circumstances that indicate the potential for weapons possession or related violence, such as a tip or spike in reported violent incidents.” Schools such as THHS, which do not have daily full-time scanning “may be subjected to unannounced scanning.”

Students had to join lines wrapped around the building when they arrived in the morning. Once inside the lobby, students were directed by NYPD officers to place their bags on x-rays to undergo a screening process and walk through metal detectors, stationed in front of the main entrance. Some students were subjected to a pat down or had items such as pepper spray and pocket knives taken away. While this is difficult to endure, for many students in New York City this is a daily routine, and THHS students should recognize the privilege they have in not having to deal with such routines on a regular basis.

What happened later in the morning, however, was different.

Directly after the 5-minute warning bell rang in band 2, an announcement was made on the loudspeaker for teachers to hold their students for 10 minutes, before proceeding to the third band. Approximately 10 minutes later, another announcement was made to hold classes again for an additional 10 minutes.

This was almost unheard of at THHS. No one can remember a time when class transitions were delayed with no explanation, just an announcement over the loudspeaker telling everyone to sit tight. Not once during those 20 minutes did the administration clarify if we were in a controlled or dangerous situation, nor did anyone indicate whether we were to follow lockdown procedures. Thus, some teachers were continuing their teaching, unbothered, while others were taking precautions for a soft lockdown, locking the doors and blocking the door windows.

Misinformation rapidly spreads between students in different classes who are able to communicate on their phones. Some shared that there were ambulances parked outside of the THHS building, which, according to reporting from The Classic, was a coincidence. The ambulances were for another building. Parents also received messages from students who were uncertain as to what was going on. For a number of students, there was a significant fear that the building was threatened.

This chain of events serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for improved communication between school administrators and the student and staff body.

It’s imperative that we, as students, are informed about significant changes in our school environment, particularly when they relate to our safety. Without context or explanation, we were left to speculate and fear the worst, which only heightens the tension and unease.

Even after the hold, Harrisites were buzzing with anxious questions regarding what may have caused the hold and the arrival of metal detectors. Could the delay have been a result of possession of a weapon(s), was anyone harmed, why were the NYPD stationed in the lobby throughout the day?

In his interview with The Classic, Mr. Condon said that a “hold” involves first responders needing to escort someone out of the building and is not the same as a lockdown. While that distinction is clear, it was not clear to students during the hold and the different reactions by faculty members indicates that some teachers did not fully comprehend the difference either. . The need for privacy for someone being escorted out of the building by first responders is understandable and an announcement need not reveal every detail of what was going on. However, the announcement of the “hold” could very well clarify that the building is not in lockdown and that there is no threat in the building. Teachers and students shouldn’t be left in the dark, but rather assisted to appropriately assess the situation. Lockdown drills are an unfortunate reality in America, but the confusion brought on by this “hold” was a more accurate test of our building’s readiness to respond to unexpected events with consistency between classes.

With an increase in the number of school shootings across the country, an unexplained situation prompts fear and anxiety among everyone. According to CNN, as of October 3, there have been 58 school shootings so far this year in the United States. For many on that morning, the fear that THHS could’ve been one of the schools to join the list was in the back of everyone’s minds, as teachers and students remained awaiting further information that never arrived.

Safety in school, especially in America, has become a major concern and this ordeal revealed many of the preconceived notions that one may have when in a potentially harmful situation.

Teachers play a crucial role in our academic lives, not just as educators but as mentors and guides. By not providing enough detail about the situation, our administration inadvertently handicapped their ability to provide comfort and guidance to students who may have been under distress. Teachers are often the first line of defense for students dealing with anxiety or fear, and they can provide much-needed reassurance and a sense of stability. By excluding them from the loop, we missed an opportunity to harness their expertise and care in a moment when it was needed most.

As students, we deserve better, and a follow up communication should have been sent to explain more about why there was a hold. We deserve to be informed, to have our concerns addressed, and to feel safe within the confines of our own school. A simple statement, even one that is vague but reassuring, can go a long way in calming student nerves and would have eased apprehensions significantly.

Transparency and communication are essential not only for our physical safety but also for our peace of mind. While we understand the importance of security and the need to protect the privacy of individuals in our community, the emotional well-being of the rest of the student body is important too.

Finally, if the school administration is not permitted to provide detail about the reasons behind the scanning and the hold, then the wider Department of Education or the NYPD should explain why security measures were intensified and what prompted the need for such actions–in our school and in any school that undergoes similar procedures.

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Katherine Lian
Katherine Lian, Multimedia Chief
Katherine Lian is a senior at Townsend High School who enjoys taking pictures, dancing, and trying new things. Her favorite memory with The Classic was her trip to Albany with her peers.
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