Last spring, Cathedral Prep experienced an actual school lock-down. Faculty, staff, and students have routinely practiced lock-down drills over the past few years, but this lock-down was not a planned exercise. Many, fearing that an intruder had entered the building took cover in their classrooms unsure of what was happening elsewhere in the building. Thankfully, there was no intruder, only a man with a knife intending on robbing the neighboring McDonald’s on 12th and Sassafras Streets.
Though it turns out Prep was never a target, the school administration took the steps they deemed necessary to protect the students from a potential threat. In the aftermath of the lock-down, Assistant Principle Mr. Swanson agreed to a Q&A with The Rambler to explain what is going on in the front lines in defending the school and those inside from possible intruders.
Q: What changes have been made this past year by the school administration to help increase the security measures within the school?
A: There were no drastic changes made since last year. However, we are always revisiting our current polices in place to ensure they are best they can be. We are meeting often and communicating with the Erie Police Department to discuss what is best in a potential emergency situation, and that they know our policies that are in place in the case of an intruder entering the building.
Q: Will there be more lock-down drills this year than last year to better prepare the students in the case of an intruder inside the school?
A: It really depends on the need. Fr. Jabo, Mr. Murnock, and myself will assess the need for lock-downs as the year goes on and adjust the number of drills accordingly.
Q: What protocols are in place if a student, such as one walking back from Gannon classes, were to get stuck outside during a lock-down?
A: There are members of the lock-down team sweeping the building in the case of a lock-down to look for students in the case that they are stuck outside the building or stuck outside their classrooms by checking bathrooms, closets, and the exterior windows and doors.
Q: What is your biggest fear regarding the security of the school and the students and faculty inside?
A: My biggest fear is that someone would doing something harmless, such as propping open an exterior door, and it leading into something that is a major issue, such as an intruder entering into the building with the intent to do harm.
Q: If someone were to break into the school, how are the emergency responders alerted. Is there a panic button that alerts them directly (reducing response time), or is a school administrator physically required to dial 911?
A: Administrators physically contact 911. We also have protocols in place if emergency responders do have to come to the school, and those protocols are made known by all the offices in the school, such as Advancement, Fr. Jabo’s office, etc.
Q: What is the likelihood of Prep employing a private security firm to protect the school (for the safety of the students, of course), especially if the rates of attacks on schools increases nationwide and globally?
A: I don’t think that anything is out of the question at this point. Administration is taking control of the situation right now, and there is not a need for that at this time. However, if there does happen to be a change in the demographics of the city, then we are always open to changing our current security policy to better adapt to the situation.
Q: The Sassafras McDonald’s is a frequent hotspot for Prep students after school. With the recent robbery of this McDonald’s location at knifepoint, do you fear for the safety of students who patron this McDonald’s?
A: My concern is that students make healthy choices that keep them safe and that they would not frequent a place like the Sassafras McDonald’s if they didn’t feel safe there. In addition, with the Metz cafeteria set up, there should be less of a need for students to visit the McDonald’s since food is served all day now and we have a much more fresh and healthy selection than in years past.
Q: One hot-button issue that has arisen in the past few years is whether or not teachers should be armed themselves, to defend their students from an armed intruder. In your opinion, should trained teachers, or to a lesser extent, trained school administers, be allowed carry concealed weapons in the classroom as a way to neutralize the threat if an armed intruder with a weapon of any sort were to break into the school?
A: This has been a very large debate around the country since Columbine and has become an even bigger question since Sandy Hook. The big question is how the students would feel knowing all their teachers had a 9mm strapped onto them in class or if a person with ill intentions were to gain access to a teacher’s weapon while in storage. This debate is best left into the hands of the professionals and our elected officials to determine the best solution and out of the hands of just the average Joe on the streets.