By Elizabeth Tzagournis
A typical Monday morning in the cafeteria of Chardon High School turned deadly on Feb. 27, 2012. At 7:30 a.m., 17-year-old T.J. Lane began a merciless rampage that ended in the deaths of three high school students and the injury of two others. The 1,100 student school is located 35 miles east of Cleveland in the town of Chardon, Ohio and experienced the worst high school shooting in the U.S. since 2005, according to USA Today.
Armed with a .22-caliber handgun stolen from his uncle, Lane admitted to firing 10 random shots before he was chased from the building, said prosecuting lawyer David Joyce.
According to NBC News, the sophomore, who was from nearby vocational school Auburn Career Center, was detained for 15 days before the court decided he would be charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated murder as well as two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault.
The events at Chardon High School directly affected UAHS with the presence of police beginning the week of Feb. 27. Principal Kip Greenhill stated that his main purpose for temporarily employing the police at UAHS was to discourage “copycat” actions and create a calm environment where students could concentrate on school work rather than possible school violence.
“One of the issues you have to deal with after you have a crisis is copycat. A number of schools around the state have had copycat stuff where people have threatened the school and things like that,” Greenhill said. “[The police are here] so that people feel secure and less distracted so that [they] can focus more on [their] studies.”
Though the purpose of the police presence is to ensure safety and continue the relaxed environment to which UAHS is accustomed, Greenhill assures students that they have little to fear while at the high school.
“The research shows that of all the places you go as a student, school is the safest place,” Greenhill said. “You also have 200 adults in the building supervising.”
Author of Delinquency and Juvenile Justice in American Society Randall G. Sheldon verifies that school is indeed the safest place for a student to be and states that there has been a continual decline in student violence over the past decades.
However, the police presence does not drastically improve safety in the high school, according to Greenhill, who believes the main purpose of their presence is to reduce stress over a potentially dangerous situation.
“I do think in a heightened time of tension you’re more secure with a police officer here,” he said.
Many community members—including students—have questioned the enforcement tactics employed at UAHS, according to Greenhill. Students have had varied responses but the large majority seem to feel the police presence is unnecessary, according to a 200-student poll. Although most students did not feel the policeman was warranted, many admitted to feeling safer while the policeman was stationed. Greenhill admits to hearing many differing ideas on how to run UAHS.
“I always have people with a lot of suggestions on things. I get hundreds of suggestions on how we should operate this school,” he said. “I did have one person accuse me of trying to set up a police state. But then I have other people saying why don’t we have police there every day. When people say ‘police state,’ I said, ‘We had police in there temporarily just to allow students to feel more relaxed and focus on their studies.’ Then other people will say, ‘Why don’t we have police there all the time?’”
Responding to tragedies like the school shooting in Chardon, people have suggested metal detectors as a means of safety in addition to police.
“Their heart’s in the right place, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily a healthy environment for people, and I don’t know if it’s cost effective,” Greenhill said. “To spend tens of thousands of dollars on metal detectors when we don’t have weapons in the school—why would we do it?”
The argument for increased security measures, such as metal detectors and stationed policemen, are expenditures Greenhill feels extraneous for UAHS.
“That’s pretty hard to justify,” he said. “Plus you are going to have somebody there monitoring those metal detectors all the time and you don’t find anything. You’re going to spend a lot of money with something you’re not having a problem with.”
UAHS has not encountered many experiences with threats or violence from students according to Greenhill. He emphasized the lack of weapons within the school but stressed that they always remain aware of the prospect of students bringing in weapons.
While UAHS continues to uphold a safe environment for students and teachers alike, the introduction of a police presence reminds many that UA is not exempt from possible school violence.
Junior Greg Hickey
“What police presence? I hardly think one or two cops could stop someone if they really wanted to hurt others in such a public place.”
Senior Storm Haney
“It’s highly unnecessary. He’s not doing anything. If he really wants to help… he should bust… kids for doing drugs and coming to school high.”
Junior Zach Stowe
“It’s a good idea because when the police are here kids are less likely to bring drugs, weapons and other illegal items. However, UAHS is generally a safe environment and I’d rather have the police patrolling the streets than walking around in the schools.”