Pinellas students say they feel safe in school, but question wisdom of locking gates
Pinellas is moving forward with plans to put locks and buzzers at the front entrances of some schools, but the conversation about school safety hasn't ended there. Meeting with students yesterday, school board member Robin Wikle asked them a straightforward question: Do you feel safe in school?
The high school students immediately zeroed in on gates to their campuses. Haley Lehmann, a senior at Largo High School, said the gates to her school are never locked, "so people can kind of walk on campus." Still, she said she didn't necessarily feel unsafe.
A student at Gibbs High School also said he felt safe in school, despite the arrests of two students in January after drugs and gun were found between the students' lockers. But he pointed to locked gates at the student parking lot as something that makes him feel less secure. "If something were to happen, and I understand they lock it for safety, but there's no way for us to get out," he said.
Students at Lakewood and Cleveland High School echoed their frustration with the locked gates, saying they have to get a hall monitor when they want to leave early (some students take dual enrollment classes or have periods off for other reasons).
But Superintendent Michael Grego said the students needed to understand that the decision to lock the gates to the parking lots came from consultation with police and fire officials. Locking the gates can keep strangers out, and protect students' cars.
"It might not make perfect sense to you, but I'm going to suggest that in adding security there are some elements that outweigh the convenience of when you want to leave," said Grego, adding that he wasn't "trying to squelch this conversation of locked gates or not locked gates, but we're following very good advice" from law enforcement.