Reflecting on school safety a year after the Parkland shooting


Photo taken by Alyssa Freyman

Reflecting on school safety. Mr. Morlanne is the Assistant Principal at South, and is also in charge of school safety plans. He takes his school safety jobs seriously in order to keep students in a safe environment. “I think more people are aware of and concerned about school safety” responded Mr. Morlanne. “People are willing to talk about it, which is good. They’re asking questions and they want to know what our policies and procedures are so that they are prepared. So it’s all about the readiness.”

Alyssa Freyman, Editor-in-chief

The Parkland shooting continues to haunt people, even a year after the event. Students fear a shooting in their own school and having to walk in the same footsteps as Parkland students. In Forsyth County, changes have been made to school safety regulations. I interviewed Mr. Morlanne, the assistant principal and person in charge of school safety plans/after-hours security/alarms and school safety drill education and schedules.

Q: What has the school and community here done in response to the Parkland shooting?

A: Personally, I have reached out to community members, parents, businesses, survey forms, personally talking to get feedback, what concerns they may have and how we can address those concerns, whether just be asking questions or maybe changing some of our policies that we do. In school, we have changed somewhat. We tweaked it a little bit. In light of what we learned from the Parkland shooting, people get confused with the fire alarms and they don’t know if they should leave immediately. One of the things that we have done differently is we hear the fire alarm go off and we hold. Wait for an announcement from the administration. We’ll check to see if there is an actual fire. If there is, we’ll tell you to go ahead and evacuate. If it isn’t, it’s a false alarm; you stay where you are. That way, we’re not exiting into hallways and becoming targets for whoever tries to get them out of the school.

Q: What do you think has been the most effective change in the school?

A: I think more people are aware of and concerned about school safety. I think just the awareness factor, people are willing to talk about it, which is good. They’re asking questions and they want to know what our policies and procedures are so that they are prepared. So it’s all about the readiness. I think just the education of school safety: how do we do this if this happens, what do we do in this scenario. We did a SOFO SEL lesson on school safety leading up to our code red, which was the first time we ever did a code red in our county, in this school. We’ve always been against that, but we felt that it was time for us to practice a code red. If we were in a code red, if we were in this situation, what would we be doing? What I loved was that the kids took it seriously, the teachers took it seriously, so it’s really just the willingness to talk about this […] This is, unfortunately, a vital part of our school. We have to keep up with school safety.”

Q: What has been the student, teacher, and community response to these changes?

A: Very positive. They are encouraged. They love the fact that we want to make a difference, that we’re acknowledging that there are issues and problems and concerns, but we always say that we practice just in case. The question is not ‘Is it ever going to happen’? It’s a matter of time. Maybe it won’t happen here, but it’s going to happen somewhere else. So the central offices are very keen on training all of the schools. Every school has a school safety coordinator. We all go to the same training, so there is a clear message. All schools are doing the same policy, and we all talk to each other to make sure that our practices are the same, that we aren’t deviating, or if there are some good ideas, we try to incorporate those ideas.

Q: What is the school still planning to do. Is there anything in the works?

A: The county does practice school shooter incidences. We did it here several years ago. West did it. I think they’re trying to get to every high school to do a practice shooter scenario so that people get the idea of what it would really feel like. It’s a very intense practice and drill, and it’s good that both students, staff members, and community responders get exposed and see what it’s like. What they want is for the actual event to be easier than the practice. You go to the practice and you make the mistakes then so that when you have to respond to the real thing, it’s like second nature.

Q: Are they planning on doing the school shooter practice again any time soon?

A: I think so. I think every year, school safety coordinates with other schools and our school to do a school shooter scenario, and then they do some other school safety initiatives. We constantly practice every year and all year long. One of our requirements is to have one fire drill a month. The first month of August, we have to have two fire drills. Two times a year, we do tornado drills. We have to go through some of our codes: code yellow, medical code (code blue), or code red this year as practice lock-downs that we have to do. Every month, we are doing a practice drill. Tomorrow, we have a fire drill that we have to do to fulfill our monthly fire drill requirement. We also had a tornado drill this month as part of the state-wide severe weather week. On a particular day, every school across the state is supposed to coordinate at 9 o’clock in the morning a tornado drill. It doesn’t always happen that way, but sometime during that day, everybody is doing a tornado drill.

Q: Is there anything that you would do differently?

A: I don’t know that I would do anything differently. I would just continue to inform and instruct and educate people on the importance of these drills and why we discuss and worry about school safety. I think we just continue doing what we’re doing, but also encourage feedback from students, from staff, from parents and business leaders. I don’t have all of the answers, but the more feedback I get, the better it is for everybody.


With the support of students, teachers, the community, the school can only improve when it comes to safety. South and Mr. Morlanne are constantly working on creating a safe environment for all, whether it’s on tornado drills or school shootings. If there is a real emergency, stay calm and follow the directions of the school.