Are we safe in schools?

With the increase of threats in Wake County, it’s time to start considering better ways to protect students and staff.


Staff Graphic by Nic Cazin

Recently, code reds have been happening more often across Wake County, striking anxiety in students of all ages. Is there a way for us to be safer?

On Feb. 1, 2023, Rolesville High School went into its second code red lockdown for the school year. The school went into lockdown at 10:45 a.m. after a student with a loaded gun was stopped at the front of the school. The students and staff stayed in lockdown until 1:15 p.m. when the school was put in code yellow and dismissed their student body for the day; this code red following Rolesville High School’s first lockdown of the school year in October 2022, due to trespassers on the campus.

Rolesville isn’t the only school in Wake County to experience the fear of a school shooting. In fact, Wakefield High School had a code red on the first day of school because of shots fired at the YMCA next door. There was another on Dec. 6, 2022, in which all three Wakefield schools went into lockdown for about two hours. The lockdown was put in place due to police receiving a false threat, and they ended up detaining someone shortly before the code red was lifted. 

By the end of the first week of the second semester, starting on Monday, Jan. 30, six schools in Wake County were targeted and sent into code red, and by the end of the second week that number is still counting, with two more Raleigh schools going into lockdown. Our community deserves to feel a sense of security when walking into school, not the fear or worry that there is going to be a lockdown. 

As a high school student in Wake County and America, I have gone through many drills in my educational journey and my fair share of real lockdowns. As an elementary schooler, I remember feeling confused as to why we even had to hide under the teacher’s desk and be absolutely silent for over half an hour, and in some instances even terrified when we weren’t informed it was a drill. 

As an elementary schooler, I remember feeling confused as to why we even had to hide under the teacher’s desk and be absolutely silent for over half an hour, and in some instances even terrified when we weren’t informed it was a drill. 

This fear and confusion is something that every student, from kindergarteners to high schoolers, experiences in their lives. With the increase of recent threats in Wake County, students, staff and families alike wonder how can we be safer in school.

In 2021, 23 percent of students felt that their school was not equipped to handle mental health, and another 62 percent of students stated that they don’t feel their school officials create an environment of physical and social-emotional safety. 

In recent years, experts have found that most school shooters have mental health issues, like depression, and most do not receive the proper treatment or help. School-aged kids have a hard time processing emotions and asking for help, and sometimes they turn to aggression as an outlet. 

There are numerous solutions we could implement to improve mental health. If we incorporated mental health breaks in our school schedule, for example, scheduling days off or having more half days, as well as having mandatory counselor meetings and encouraging teachers to be more understanding when it comes to assignments, students’ mental health is likely to improve. The Wake County school board is asking lawmakers for additional funding so they can begin to improve and support student well-being. 

This isn’t the only thing we can do to decrease the abundance of lockdowns. Schools can begin implementing metal detectors at main entrances like Johnston County did, locking all other entrances when students arrive in the mornings, as well as using student identification cards to decrease the risk of non-students entering the building. Additionally, schools can hire full-time security guards or additional police officers to help watch over the school, and they can be the first line of defense if there happens to be a code red. 

In the instance where there is a lockdown, whether that be a false threat, a real threat or a drill, teachers and students should have continuous updates. While an announcement lets the school know that we are in a code red, staff and students are never sure why. Colleges use a school-wide text message alert system, and that is something elementary school through high school should use as well, this way teachers can be informed and keep their students and parents informed, helping decrease the anxiety ever present in these situations. 

So, how can we help implement these critical safety measures? Contact your local school board to emphasize the importance of these changes, as most of these ideas need to be handled at a county-wide level. Protecting school-aged children, teenagers and school staff should always be a first priority. As a high school student myself, I can honestly say I’m exhausted of being terrified anytime there is a code red announcement at school, and it’s time to push for change.