On November 20, 2014, about a month into my freshman year at Torrey Pines High School, the entire campus was put on lockdown due to an online threat to shoot up the school. For over four hours we huddled in the corners of our classrooms awaiting clearance from the police to leave campus. This type of situation, sadly, is no longer an unusual one for most kids in schools across the U.S. This year alone, Torrey Pines was threatened three times, and one of the threats resulted in school being cancelled for an entire day.
“There’s definitely a growing sense that we aren’t safe while on campus,” Hannah, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy said. “Especially over the past four years, it’s really not that surprising anymore when we hear about shooting threats.”
The pervading fear on campus is almost, in a way, becoming normalized. It is no longer questioned when the principal’s voice comes onto the speaker to let us know we’re conducting an active shooter drill, it has just become routine.
“Fear of [school shootings] is not something high schoolers have had to deal with in the past,” Joseph, a senior at Torrey Pines High School said. “Being in the class of 2018, I feel like we’ve kind of watched this fear come into schools over the past four years because of all the shootings we hear about in the news.”
Torrey Pines High School was threatened three times in just the 2017-18 school year. Though all of the threats turned out to be nothing, they did have an impact on the student body and teachers. On the days the threats were made there was substantially lower attendance and visible anxiety. Last year alone, 110 students in San Diego County were expelled after making threats against their schools, according to the California Department of Education.
“When I walk into a room for the first time I’m always checking for the exits,” John, a senior at Torrey Pines High School said. “I wouldn’t say I’m scared while I’m at school, but the idea that someone could come shoot up the school is always in the back of your head.”
As the “Roving Teen Reporter” for the Sandpiper, it has been my job to bring the perspectives of teenagers on issues in our area to the table. I chose this topic for my last story since it may be the one topic where we all agree. No matter where you stand on gun control or helping those with mental illness, no one wants to see kids afraid at school.
In the short few years since November 20, however, this constant uneasiness about the safety of our campus has become a normal occurrence. Just a few years ago high schoolers were concerned about their grades, clothes and friendships. Today, they are also concerned about their lives.