Overgrown bush prevents the fence at the front of the school making it unable to close.
Photo by Natalie Hurd
According to an article written by Elizabeth Enriquez-Phillips in the Atascadero News, an intruder trying to escape the police entered the AHS campus by driving up the steep uphill road at the front of Atascadero High School and coming to a stop near the library before being arrested by police after a low-speed pursuit. The driver was Nancy Lynn Clayburg, who had a suspended license. This caused a lockdown of the entire campus, which scared students and staff who could hear the helicopter overhead. The fact that someone got that far on campus during the school day caused a lot of concern.
Safety is the school’s first priority during a lockdown or any emergency situation. However, a teacher filed a report about a month before the lockdown about the gate at the bottom of that access road not being able to close. “So I was down there for [one of] the evacuation drills, and I saw that it won’t shut. I let the administration know that if you want this gate to shut you have to trim the bushes down,” said the teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous. Some say this gate on the campus is a threat to the students’ safety because, according to the California Department of Education Code, “Collaboration among key stakeholders is also necessary to address structural and systemic barriers to success with violence prevention.” The front gate to the school has overgrown bushes surrounding it, making it a problem in an emergency situation. The administration still hasn’t addressed the gate not being able to be closed. Taking time to trim the bushes to prevent other intruders to easily roll up on campus can make a big difference to the school's safety.
During the evacuation drill, there were also some communications issues and problems involving door locks that haven’t fully been addressed by the administration. Ms.Williams is the go-to person for information about reports or complaints about the school, and according to her, some of the reports about the lockdown are shocking. “Some of the doors, because of construction, do not lock from the inside; the district is responding to those. The teachers couldn’t lock their doors from the inside, which has been a constant complaint for the last ten years,” Ms. Williams said. The administration did look into the door problems down by the H-wing by switching out the interior push bar locks; however, there were still a few problems. One teacher thought she had locked the door, but a janitor easily entered the room without having to unlock it because the outside lock can be left open by mistake, while the inside push bar is locked, making that inside lock useless. Ensuring that doors lock properly and making the gate able to open and close are steps towards making the school safer.
To be better prepared for the next intruder or for any other dangerous event, the administration should take a better look into the reports and complaints about campus safety. Atascadero High is wide open and can be accessed from a variety of areas that have no security. Addressing these problems might go a long way towards improving overall campus safety.