As Safe As We Think?

how do the security features at Tahoma keep students safe?


Rylee Cass

Officer Bonnell of Tahoma High School

Rylee Cass, Writer

Walking into a high school should inspire a welcoming air of potential, acceptance and the occasional I-have-finals caffeine desire. However, the statistics of school shootings are rising, and with that, students are increasingly worried for their safety. Safety is an especially prominent issue with the most recent Florida and Georgia shootings. Students all around the nation are grouping together and demanding that stricter gun control be put into action, or even calling for the outright banning of guns altogether. But could gun control really be the reason behind these disasters?

When questioned on the link of gun control and school shootings, Tahoma High School’s Officer Bonnell stated, “I think one of the first things people need to discuss is: what does gun control look like?” There are many different ideas of what gun control is, but it isn’t specifically defined.

Ms. Karen Weihe of Tahoma High School’s Security added, “It’s such a large topic… and such a complex issue. “

What truly defines the idea of gun control and what does it look like? More importantly, what type of control is popularly desired? Sophomore Kiley Kingery suggests a more thorough background check in those requesting to buy a gun and that courses be required before taking one into possession. “I feel like there needs to be required courses like how you drive a car, because you can drive a car and you can crash and kill someone, so you have to take classes before you have it and get a car. I feel like it should be the same for a gun because a gun is also deadly – maybe even more so deadly, depending on who has said gun,” said Kingery.

In order to obtain a concealed weapon permit in the state of Washington, you must be at least 21 years old and give your fingerprint for a background check. This background check investigates for any criminal history such as arrests, convictions and sex offenses. If you check out, a permit is given to you. However, mental health is a newer concern to check for. This brings up a different issue.

Could mental health, instead of gun control, be the cause of school shootings? Officer Bonnell said on the issue, “It’s such a complex issue.. A very big thing.” He also suggests that cultural influences, social media and home life with family could be a contributor to such violence. “Families look very different now than back in the 60’s.” He proceeded to say that parental structures could definitely have an impact on mental health.

Shawn Martinson, Freshman Success and World Studies teacher, believes that the decreased funding, evaluations and support of mental health are big factors for school shootings, among many other causes such as ‘dehumanization of others’ with different opinions in our society. Dehumanization is the process of depriving a person or group of people of positive human qualities, making them seem inhuman and setting them apart from the rest of society.

But ultimately, it comes down to the students. Students were asked if they ever questioned their safety at Tahoma High School and if they believed student safety was valued. One student who spoke under the condition of anonymity said that they have felt unsafe and that parents and students are tired of not feeling safe.

Another student, freshman Meaghan McNally, also said she didn’t feel safe here and gave examples, “I’ve seen students in my class joke about drugs and guns and make racist and anti-LGBTQ+ jokes.” She described furthermore that the jokes are regarding weapons and drugs, making her feel uneasy and wary.

Kingery points out that Tahoma High School only has one officer for the whole school and that there are no bag checks. “I personally know a lot of kids who take things that should not be at school to school and they never get caught.“ This information sheds light on the possibility of someone bringing a weapon in a backpack or bag and going undetected. McNally suggests that there should be harsher punishments and higher surveillance on suspicious students.

“We rely on you guys too [students], to report what you hear and see,” said Weihe. Both Officer Bonnell and Weihe laughed and made it clear they didn’t understand social media as much as others and furthermore rely on students to tell them about things happening on social media too. “I have no idea who’s going to talk to me later today. Like, ‘hey, did you see this Snapchat?’ That’s one big thing…  A lot of things you guys are really good at with communication, us old folk, we kind of lose track.”

At Tahoma High School, staff and administration take students’ safety very seriously and rely much on students to report questionable actions or words, whether it be regarding one’s mental health, weapons or violence in general. However, safety itself cannot be absolutely guaranteed. Because of this, being cautious and informed is highly important so Tahoma High School doesn’t become a statistic.