Opening Doors to Safety Concerns

In an act familiar to people who attend and work at the high school, a student opened a door Sept. 18 and admitted someone to the building.

“On Tuesday, we had one of our students open a door and let in an outsider. Obviously, this person did not have a Shaker Student ID, and that is what drew Security’s attention to him. When approached by Security, he ran from the building,” the administration stated in an email sent to students Sept. 20.

Leonard Jones, 19, was charged with trespassing, according to a Shaker Heights Police Department report on the incident. He had previously been charged with carrying concealed weapons, tampering with evidence, obstructing official business and falsification. He pleaded guilty Oct. 24 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to attempting to carry a concealed weapon, obstructing official business and falsification.  

Administration reiterated the importance of wearing IDs in order to prevent such incidents. “Thank you for continuing to wear your ID and encouraging your peers to do the same. Doing so is just one part of our comprehensive plan to keep everyone safe, and on Tuesday, it worked,” the email stated.

In recent morning announcements, the administration told students that they are not allowed to open doors for outsiders. “Students may not open the doors during school hours for any individual,” the announcement stated. “Once the doors are locked, all visitors or students must enter through the main doors. If a student steps outside during the day to make a phone call, they must re-enter through the main doors.

“Students observed opening doors will be given consequences.”

Administration had never stated this before, but began to emphasize it after the Sept. 18 incident.

Some students are comfortable opening the door for someone who seems to be a high school student, regardless of whether or not the outsider is wearing an ID.

“Half of us don’t wear our ID anyway. I’d probably just [say] ‘It’s fine,’ ” junior Marina Denunzio said.

About half of the students surveyed have opened a door to the high school to admit someone and said they would again.

Students surveyed during fourth period lunch offered their responses to hypothetical situations regarding opening doors for others.

Some said they would refuse to let someone into the building without proper student identification. “I would make them prove that [their ID] was actually theirs. I would crack the door and ask why they’re outside,” freshman Will Berick said.

“It would prove that they at least know what’s around. And, I would still not be quick to open the door.”

Principal Jonathan Kuehnle, who was placed on administrative leave Nov. 1, urged students not to let others inside the building, regardless of whether or not they wore IDs. “What’s that student doing outside in the first place?” he questioned.

While some believe that the student who opened the door should be punished, as a precedent for similar occurrences, others think that the student made an honest mistake.

“I do understand, because you’re kids and you just think you know them, and nothing will happen,” Global Studies teacher Kyle Fleming said.

The student was nevertheless punished for opening the door. “You can definitely expect to receive some serious discipline for doing something like that… for letting an outsider in… especially if you knew that person was here to do things that are illegal,” Kuehnle said.

Kuehnle would not comment on the discipline issued in this case.

Although there is no explicit Shaker Board of Education policy regarding entrances, policies do exist that require schools to prioritize student safety.

The district had created visitor policies before to combat these intrusions. Kuehnle cited the Columbine High School massacre as stimulant for creating more entrance rules.

“Shaker’s kind of, in my experience, late to the game in this,” he said.

According to the 2018-19 Student Handbook, non-Shaker students cannot enter the high school during the school day. The only exception is if, at the principal’s discretion, a student is shadowing a Shaker student.

The high school has 26 doors, so it is difficult to ensure that every door is monitored at all times. For this reason, visitors must enter through the front door of the school, sign in and provide identification.

All other doors are grouped into zones, which are monitored by security. “One guard could have three exit doors that they are responsible for, or two, or one,” security monitor Nikkiya Lee said.

There are 26 doors at the high school.

In an effort to strengthen security, the administration now limits which doors serve as entrances between 7:30 and 8 a.m. as well. Students must now enter the building via the main door, lower cafeteria or auditorium only. After school starts, only the main door is accessible for entry. All other doors are to be used only as exits.

The high school still has an open campus policy.

Lee considers the building to be well-monitored and safe. She said that outsiders rarely trespass at the high school.

Freshman Elaine Patton is less confident that IDs help secure the building. “I’ve walked into school without even having my ID on, and they’ve just let me go to class. That kind of worries me,” she said. “It raises some concerns [about] how easily people can get into the school.”

Nevertheless, student ID policies will prevail at the high school. “It’s just a common sense rule,” said Kuehnle. “It’s a case of better safe than sorry.”

An abbreviated version of this article appears in print on page 8 of Volume 89, Issue I, published Dec. 21, 2018.

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