How students perceive their safety

Vincent Niewald News Editor

Senior Alyssa Brandes showcases how simple walking in and out of the front doors can be. Photo by Grace Walter.

For administrators at Bellevue East, student safety is the number one priority. While the Nebraska Department of Education ranked Bellevue East as ‘Good’ on a scale of ‘Needs Improvement,’ ‘Good,’‘Great’, and ‘Excellent’ for the 2020-2021 school year, as seen on the official Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) website, things within East are constantly changing,in order to make East a safer place for all students. 

While some changes may be more obvious to students, there may be some smaller changes, or more subtle ones, that students never notice. Assistant principal Nathaniel Bacon believes that student safety is of the utmost importance in school.

“It’s kind of the first thing on our minds every day, every year looking at what upgrades or things need to change to keep kids safe. Whether that thing is more of the prevention side, obviously, that’s what we want to do is have that preventative part in place and enhancing that because we don’t just want to be proactive in student safety,” Bacon said.

Every year, there are policy changes, updates to the building, anything and everything to ensure that the students attending Bellevue East remain safe while inside of the building. East’s administration is always looking for ways to improve student safety.

“We visit that at the end of every year; what enhancements do we need to make for prevention? And then at the start of the year, review with our staff, our safety protocols or SRP, any changes or additions to what we’re doing.  And then also, if there’s any things around the building that need to be fixed, changed or updated, to better enhance student safety,” Bacon said.

Preemptive improvements and close attention to student safety are very important, but the essence of all of these changes is, of course, the students themselves. Student perception of their own safety can be crucial. If a student does not feel safe in school, then they cannot be expected to learn at their highest capacity. Senior Alyssa Brandes has always felt comfortable at East.

“I can say that I have never really felt unsafe while I was in school. I mean, I’ve never even been in any situation where the teachers or the administrators have had to intervene in order to fix something. I will say that I have heard from some other students that some of the teachers are really good at listening, and they try their best to help as much as possible, if there is some sort of thing going on,” Brandes said.

As safe as some students may feel, there is always room for improvement. While Brandes is happy with the way the school has made her feel in the years she has attended, she believes that there is room for the school to grow. One such concern involves the way people gain entrance into the school.

“The school could probably change how easily people can get inside. You really can never know who could be coming in, and whether or not they could pose an actual threat to all of the students inside of the school. Thankfully, there hasn’t ever been a situation like that, at least not that I can remember there being,” Brandes said. 

Brandes and students like her are among those lucky enough to have always felt safe in school, whether due to physical improvements to the building, or through the mediating presence of teachers and administrators. Some students, however, have a slightly different view of their safety in school. Senior Melannie Gonzalez is one such student. 

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever really felt unsafe while I was in school. I would say I’ve felt uncomfortable, but there is a fairly big jump for discomfort to active danger. Honestly, I can say I have never feared anything other than an ‘F’ while in school. Honestly, our staff is impeccable at making students feel welcome and making any necessary accommodations for us,” Gonzalez said.

Student safety and student satisfaction are two very different topics. Students like Brandes, who feels secure every day and is mostly pleased with how school runs, coexist with students like Gonzalez, who also feel secure, but have no love lost for school itself.

“Do any of us particularly like being here? No, but school is able to consistently give all of us a secure routine. Not only that, but all of us are, or at least I assume we are all aware, of the various precautions that are in place in order to protect us. To be honest, there isn’t even anything I can think of that comes off as a major breach of security to me,” Gonzalez said.

If a student did feel they knew of an area of the school that could pose a security risk, or of certain things that make them feel unsafe, there are actions that they can take. Bacon is always willing to accept student input, and encourages students to approach him if they do ever feel unsafe.

“I will take any and all input from a student that they feel they need to express on how to make our buildings safer or a specific part of the building safer. We are open to having students be a part of that conversation. I welcome students, if they see something that’s not safe, let’s fix it. Let’s figure out why it’s unsafe. A plan of action to make it safe. I would encourage any student that has a safety concern or an idea to make things better to come see me,” Bacon said.