DI Voices | Appreciate the shift in C-U high schools’ safety

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Columnist Diamond Walker at a graduation thrown for her by the Human Relation Board of Commissions in May 2019. Some Central and Centennial High School students say they feel safe with the additional of security guards and metal detectors following gun related incidents within the year.

By Diamond Walker, Columnist

I graduated from Centennial High School during my junior year in 2019. My time at Centennial was spent being a student activist, giving people a voice in rooms they were silenced. 

I organized a student-led walkout in 2018, in which students walked out of class to protest gun violence and mass shootings in schools across the nation. We stood in solidarity with peers that we never met because we knew these incidents could happen anywhere. 

During my short time at Centennial, I experienced one lockdown due to a potential gun threat on the premises. Students walking in Centennial hallways today have different experiences.

On Sept. 8, 2021, Champaign police responded to an incident where a student possessed a firearm in Centennial, which resulted in an immediate lockdown. 

On Sept. 15, 2021, shots were fired on the football field, and 13 shell casings were found on the scene. On Sept. 22, 2021, a violent threat surfaced on social media in which a student threatened to come to the premises with a firearm and harm students. 

Within one month, three gun-related incidents disrupted the learning culture and put students and parents in frantic states of uncertainty. The Champaign Unit 4 School District took immediate action to ensure their students’ safety by installing metal detectors at Central High School and Centennial High School in January 2022. 

Central and Centennial High School students were asked, “Do you feel safe at school?” 

Emeraude Tshimanga, sophomore at Central High School

“Yes, I do feel safe at school. The metal detectors were needed earlier in the school year due to the violence that was occurring in schools, along with students bringing weapons. I now feel as if they are unnecessary because weapons have not been an issue in a long time as well as the district got their point across by enforcing it.” 

Gun violence incidents have decreased this semester with the new security precautions, although this introduced a new step in students’ everyday schedules.

Ravyn Walker, freshman at Centennial High School

“Yes, I do feel safe at school. The teachers are very nice and they will do what they have to do to keep us safe. Before the new security, I kind of felt unsafe. But with the security guards, hall monitors and metal detectors I feel safe again. You see them when you first walk in, and before you even walk into school, you are checked.” 

Jake Cox, senior at Centennial High School

“Generally, I feel safe at school. When I’m in my classes and during the school day, I do not feel like I’m in immediate danger, although when something does occur, I feel like the school is unprepared and they cannot handle when something goes wrong, so it’s a mix. But on most days, I feel safe when I’m at school.” 

The installation of metal detectors has made students’ morning routines a few minutes longer, although most students seem pleased with the new safety precautions taking place, knowing that their learning environment is a safe place.

The rise in violence in Champaign-Urbana is slowly trickling into the public school system. It is our mission to build young adults up. The youth is our future, and we need to protect them.  

As Franklin Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

It’s time we invest in C-U youth and provide them with safe environments and resources so when it’s their turn, they can give back.

 

Diamond is a junior in LAS.

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