Urbana High School students, staff discuss school safety in wake of recent threats

Following+Urbana+High+Schools+hard+lockdown+on+Nov.+16+and+threats+received+by+the+school+has+caused+many+staff+and+students+to+be+more+concerned+regarding+school+safety.+

Sydney Laput

Following Urbana High School’s hard lockdown on Nov. 16 and threats received by the school has caused many staff and students to be more concerned regarding school safety.

By Park Mitchell, Contributing Writer

Urbana High School went into a hard lockdown on Wednesday, Nov. 16 after several threats were made toward students and teachers via email.

After a few hours the school opened up, but questions and concerns still remained.   

During those few hours, little was known about the circumstances of the situation by the people inside the building. 

“The most frustrating part about the lockdown was that we didn’t know exactly what was going on,” UHS senior Kelenna Onyemere said. “I was in P.E., and we had to turn off the lights and stop the class. At first we thought there was someone in the school with a gun.”

UHS received additional email threats on Friday, Nov. 18.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    In the week prior, similar threats were made at UHS on the morning of Monday, Nov. 7, resulting in the cancellation of classes that day. Additional threats resulted in the school going into soft lockdown on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

    On Nov. 22, a 16-year-old was arrested in Chicago by FBI agents, Urbana police detectives and officers from the Chicago Police Department in connection with the threats, according to an Urbana Police Department press release.

    Threats to the school are not a new occurrence at UHS. Last year the school was forced to go on soft lockdown after an individual flashed a gun near the school.

    However, “it hasn’t been this bad,” according to senior Maya Stori.

    Over the past couple of years with COVID-19 lockdowns, violence at UHS has been fairly minimal.

    “I feel like the threats and things of this nature are a more recent problem,” Onyemere said. “My freshman year — I can’t think of any threats, and my sophomore year was entirely online so we didn’t get any.”

    UHS has taken proactive steps in trying to prevent possible attacks on the school. In recent years, UHS added metal detectors and a school resource officer at the school, but these measures have been met with mixed results. 

    “I think there’s a certain degree of security theater to it — if somebody wants to get into the school with a weapon, they’re gonna do it,” said Andrew Torrey, parent of a student at UHS. 

    Forrest Farokhi, P.E. teacher and head track coach at UHS, said the school has done a good job preparing teachers. 

    “At my tenure at Urbana they’ve done a great job of covering all the code red and intruder procedures,” Farokhi said.

    UHS in recent years has also struggled to find consistent leadership, having four principals in five years. 

    With second-year principal Tarren Nance, UHS’s struggles will not be an overnight fix, but students seem to enjoy the positive attitude he has brought to the position, referring to him as Fresh Principal Nance. 

    “I just want someone who is not gonna leave in a year or two years,” Farohki said. 

    In 2021, Urbana had a total of 115 shootings, while there were only 53 in 2020 — a 116.98% increase from 2020. 

    Even with increasing instances of threats directed at UHS, students and staff seem to agree that many of these problems are not all school-related. 

    “I feel like it’s stuff from out of school that’s flowing over,” Onyemere said.  

     

    [email protected]