It's the First Day of School for Parkland Students, But Nothing Is the Same 


Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida returned to school on Wednesday, but say it’s not just a regular school year. That kind of ease may be a thing of the past.

Six months after a shooter killed 17 students and teachers at the school, students and faculty say they crave normalcy, but as NBC News reports, they are still grappling with the trauma of the shooting and learning to navigate new security measures that have turned their school into what some have said feels like a “jail.”

NBC spoke with 16-year-old Haylee Shepherd, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to even approach the school in the wake of the shooting without crying and turning around. She’s finally returning to school with her service dog, Spree. Having Spree will help with her nervousness, she said, but believes that “Douglas is probably the safest school to be at right now.”

To say that Douglas has beefed up security would be an understatement. From NBC:

Since the last school year ended, Broward County Public Schools has taken steps to make Stoneman Douglas safer, adding surveillance cameras and automatically locking doors. A new fence limits campus access to three points, which will be either locked or guarded. And security staff has been increased to 12 campus monitors who check students’ IDs, and three security officers and three school resource officers provided by Parkland and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Additionally, Stoneman Douglas will run 10 Code Red drills each school year, which teachers worry could trigger anxiety in their students. While the school nixed the clear backpacks rule that Stoneman Douglas students clowned to hell and back, all the new surveillance and security check points can feel like overkill for some students. Seventeen-year-old Sawyer Garrity likened it to a “jail”:

“There’s always going to be people who think they should be doing more, but we don’t want our school to feel like a jail,” Garrity said. “We just want to feel safe. There’s a fine line between feeling trapped and feeling safe.”

And these measures don’t make every student feel safe:

“At the end of the day, I’m not going to feel safe at school because I don’t feel safe anywhere,” Jaclyn Corin, 17, a senior and March for Our Lives activist whose friend Joaquin Oliver was killed in the shooting, said.

Expect a game of tug of war: While some students and teachers are skeptical or openly critical of these new security measures, others don’t think it’s enough. Notable members of the latter category are families of those who died in the shooting. Together, they’ve created Stand with Parkland, and they’re at war with the school board.

But it’s those returning to Stoneman Douglas who will ultimately live with whatever decisions are made for them. And somewhere in the gloom, there’s hope, a flicker of normal high school jitters. Some students are apprehensive about returning to full workloads, which never really happened after the school reopened after the shooting last semester. Others, like 16-year-old Andrea Peña, are eager to catch up with friends and sign up for extracurriculars; Pena wants to audition for the theater program, and she’s doing her best to keep her head up: “It will never go back to how it was. It just won’t,” Peña told NBC. “When something so drastic alters your world—but hopefully we’ll find a new reality.”

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