Shelter in place policy prioritizes student safety

Audrey MacGillis '25 , Staff Writer

STUDENT SAFETY Keeping all occupied rooms locked is one of the new safety procedures practiced at South.

In the past couple years, the country has faced multiple tragedies surrounding guns and threats of violence. Last year at Oxford High School, Michigan faced one of its own. The anxiety and fear students share around these threats has not been something kept under wraps, and South has implemented new safety precautions to take in emergency situations.

According to Principal Moussa Hamka, starting last year, safety procedures have drastically changed, from their names to the steps taken.

“When we shelter in place, it means there’s a potential threat outside the building,” Hamka said. “It could be a downed electrical wire, or something going down the street, but teacher instruction remains to happen. Secure mode is when there is a threat, and when we need to take precautionary measures to keep ourselves safe.”

Although each situation is different, the district has prepared every staff member for any scenario.

“We did several simulations with the staff before school started,” Hamka said. “We walked them through what to do in a classroom, we went over the PA so they heard the new announcements and we had a training session where they were all in person with us as well. We also brought in a security firm to help review our practices.”

While teachers have been trained, students still need to learn all the new information, according to math teacher Alexa McConaghy.
“The date that we had our drills, we discussed shelter in place in some classes,” McConaghy said. “But I hope we will go more in depth with others.”

Many South students, such as student Vivi Cilano ’26, are struggling to grasp the unfamiliar concepts, considering how new the drills are to them.

“They didn’t have anything like this in middle school,” Cilano said. “In the experience that I’ve had, we’ve never had a procedure quite like this.”

While the topic can be nerve wracking to many, Cilano said she feels more comfortable in the building with these new plans in place.

“I definitely think it’s a good idea, because we’ve gotten threats in the past,” Cilano said. “It makes me feel a lot safer.”

South continues to hold drills and practice the necessary procedures for if there were to be a threat, but McConaghy said she’s sure the district’s heading in the right direction.
“I feel about as prepared as we can be,” McConaghy said. “You never really know until you’re put to the test–and I hope we never are–but I feel like we’re doing as best as we can to be prepared.”