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The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

Empowering safety: navigating Pleasant Valley’s school drills and protocols

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Shivam Patel
The federal program used by Pleasant Valley in the event of a school intruder.

As the 2023-2024 school year kicks off, everyone is in a frenzy as they re-adjust to their school time schedules. Hence, the topic of school safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

According to the state of Iowa, public schools are required to have a minimum of four fire drills, four severe weather drills and a response to active shooter scenarios.

As per these requirements, Pleasant Valley performs four fire drills, four severe weather drills and one active shooter response drill a year. 

Each drill is handled in its respective manner. Pleasant Valley Schools prepare for a building fire by running drills, in which all persons in the building run through the motions of what they would do in the event of a real fire. This means that students and faculty move towards the nearest exit in an orderly fashion. Once outside, teachers do a headcount to make sure their students are present.

For severe weather drills, all persons in the building, once again, run through the motions of what they would do in the event of actual severe weather. All persons navigate to their designated “safe zones”, which have been identified as the safest locations during severe weather. Everyone then crouches down, lowers their head and places their hands over the back of their head with interlocking fingers. Once again, teachers do a headcount to make sure everyone is accounted for.

For active shooter drills (also known as ALICE drills) there is a slight difference. Pleasant Valley follows the federally endorsed safety protocol known as ALICE in the event of a school intruder. However, the steps taken during school shooter drills or ALICE drills  vary depending on the building you are in. 

Younger students in elementary schools run through the actions they would take in the event of an actual school shooter. Lights would go off, doors would be locked, and everyone would pack into an area away from windows to sit silently and hide. During these times, teachers would usually explain to their students other courses of action they would take based on the location of an intruder.

At the junior high, there is now a more active approach to school shooter drills in which students move tables and chairs to barricade the classroom door. 

However, this change does not translate over to Pleasant Valley High School. At the high school, school shooter drills are staff and student conversations. During an active school shooter drill, classrooms will be locked while teachers verbally tell their students the action plan in the event of an intruder. Teachers will discuss rendezvous points and closest exits.

While Pleasant Valley does meet the state requirements for safety drills, it does not mean that school safety is the best it can be. From 2014-2018, the United States only averaged one death and 39 injuries from school fires. Whereas in 2020-2021, the United States had 46 deaths and 72 injuries from school shootings.

Junior Rithik Vijaykumar shared that he doesn’t necessarily agree with how Pleasant Valley goes about their active school shooter drills. “I feel like active shooter drills are drills we should practice as if it was a real scenario, especially because we only do one of them a year. I feel like we should practice them more than once a year because they seem to pose a bigger threat,” he said.

While this feeling may be shared by more of the Pleasant Valley Community, Deputy Jamey Fah was able to provide a different perspective as someone who works closely with school safety. “Because as we get older I think that doing the hands-on stuff is less important than doing the critical thinking part of it. Students move throughout the building freely most of the day. We have more of this ‘if we have an incident you are going to have to make a decision on your own and I want you to have already thought through what you would do,” he said.

With everything that has been said, nothing should cause alarm as the 2023-2024 school year begins. Safety is a huge priority at Pleasant Valley. The school district is constantly looking for ways to improve school safety and to make everyone feel safer.

Fah spoke with enthusiasm in regard to the future goals and plans for safety at Pleasant Valley. “We are going to have some funds coming in from the state government in order to upgrade our systems. So we are looking at upgrading the infrastructure for our security camera systems, as well as hardening entrance doors, making it more difficult for people to get into the building. So those are the things we are right in the middle of that we are really excited about,” he said.

With the commencement of the 2023-2024 school year, school safety is paramount in the minds of students. With state funds coming in, Pleasant Valley is already off to a good start in regards to improving school safety. The school district is dedicated to maintaining the safety of their students as members of the district community are working to improve school safety day by day.

 

 

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About the Contributor
Shivam Patel
Shivam Patel, Site Manager
Shivam Patel is a senior at Pleasant Valley High School and the site manager for the Spartan Shield. Shivam is interested in computer science and aspires to be a computer software engineer. Shivam’s favorite classes include AP Physics, AP Environmental Sciences, and, of course, journalism. Shivam loves competing with his local robotics team. He is looking forward to writing for the Spartan Shield this year!



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