Students need to take drills more seriously

Kris Long, Opinions Editor

There have been more than just safety drills for students at Manhattan High this year. The school has had three secure campuses, one quasi-lockdown and two evacuations due to a suspected fire this year. Along with that, MHS has also had a shooting in its parking lot outside of school hours. Concerning, especially as it’s only September. 

One would think it safe to assume students would take drills seriously after recent events. This has proved not to be the case. During the evacuation due to fire on Thursday students were milling around, playing the radio out of their trucks and writing expletives into the dust on cars. During the pseudo-lockdown earlier in the month, students played on their phones, talked and there were reports of students purposely yelling in the hallways.

It is the opinion of The Mentor editorial board that such consistent drilling, as on Safety Week, desensitizes students to the real danger and violence drills are trying to prevent, resulting in them not taking drills seriously.

Students not taking drills seriously is dangerous during fires and severe weather, but during lockdowns it could be fatal. Why would students not follow directions in such serious situations? The simple answer we don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We have been participating in lockdown drills with a similar frequency to fire drills since we were somewhere between the ages of six and 10. We were in the second through fifth grades when Sandy Hook happened; Parkland was just two years ago. 

We’ve grown up with an awareness, an expectation, of active shooters in the place where we’re supposed to be safe. This is our generation’s realty. We don’t stop and think what a twisted, macabre moment we are in when administration comes over the intercom and says we’re in a lockdown situation. We don’t think to ourselves “Why am I pretending to hide in the corner of my dark, deathly silent classroom when I’m supposed to be learning?” We just do it automatically, numb to the depth of the situation. 

We don’t think twice when our teacher asks the class what the best weapons would be to defend ourselves. Instead, students in shop class pick up wrenches, students in English classes pick up chairs. When we go to our classes on the first day, our teachers tell us: “There’s the nearest exit, if you can run that way do so. If we can’t run we will hide in that corner, or in this closet, or behind that shelf. If I get shot leave me, save yourselves.” 

Some teachers keep the doors to their classrooms locked on an everyday basis in the hope it will keep us safer. 

This is our normal, we’re numb. It’s the same as a fire drill. It’s wrong. It’s a sick, twisted concept. But what are we supposed to do? Just not prepare?

This applies to students attitude towards other safety drills. While these are completely unpreventable, because students response is automatic, drilled into us, either we don’t comprehend or we chose not to think about the implications of our actions. 

In a way, mundaneness of drills could be considered a success. The point of drills is to make safety precautions automatic. But having students automatically know what to do takes the urgency out of the situation, this isn’t limited to lockdowns. The school could do a better job of telling students when it’s a drill and when the situation is real (as done Thursday). It’s unlikely students will follow directions if they assume it’s a drill. The school also could better explain why drills are important and emphasize that if students aren’t being responsible they put not only themselves but others at risk. 

There’s also a responsibility on students to face the situation drills are emulating and act as serious as the situation is. Students should stop and think about the reality of lockdowns, stop this being our normal, and act like the near-adults we are in order to protect ourselves and our classmates. Whether it’s a fire, severe weather, secure campus or lockdown.