The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School

BVNWnews

The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School

BVNWnews

The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School

BVNWnews

Nowhere is safe

Gun violence is prevalent in the U.S. and has impacted school and public safety.
There+were+82+school+shootings+in+2023+according+to+CNN.+%28Photo+Illustration%29%0A
There were 82 school shootings in 2023 according to CNN. (Photo Illustration)

Senior Liam Shetterly said he heard gunshots 100 feet away from where he and his friends were standing at the Chiefs rally outside of Union Station on Feb. 14.

“We started leaving and all of a sudden we heard the shots. Everyone started running and we actually ran and hid right next to those barriers that are right in front of Union Station,” Shetterly said. “I didn’t directly see people getting shot but I remember there was blood all over the ground and there were a couple of bodies that people were fencing off so people wouldn’t crowd around them.”

21 people were injured and one person was killed in the mass shooting that day. These victims were both children and adults. According to the Gun Violence Archive, this is the 48th shooting in the U.S. since the start of 2024. 

Senior Siri Gowda who was also in attendance said she and her friends hid in the bathroom at a nearby restaurant during the shooting. They were told by restaurant employees to stay there for multiple hours to make sure the area would be safe when they left. 

“We heard screams, people running, some SWAT teams with giant guns. We were running toward the crowd’s direction but [chose to] run the opposite way and decided to hide in the bathroom of the restaurant we were just in,” Gowda said. “It definitely was not hitting us [at first] but then later on, it really hit us that ‘Oh wait, something could have happened to us.”

When Shetterly first heard the gunshots, he said he and his friends were confused, however, once they realized what was happening, the scene was full of commotion.

“When we first heard [the gunshots], we all stopped, or like, ‘Wait, was that fireworks?’ And then, all of a sudden, a huge crowd of people started to run and that’s when we’re like, ‘oh, shit,’ we gotta get out of here,” Shetterly said. 

I think we do everything we can to keep our kids safe but it doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen.

— Kelsey Bakalar

Feb. 14 also marks the sixth anniversary of the Parkland school massacre which occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. During this shooting, 17 people were injured and 17 people were killed. Additionally, this day marks the 16th anniversary of the Northern Illinois University shooting which resulted in the death of five students and 17 injured.

Although BVNW has never had an active shooter enter the building, Overland Park police officer Jonathan Batley said Northwest is prepared if anything were to happen. 

Additionally, Batley said students have practiced lockdown lights-out drills multiple times and said he is trained to do a single officer response if ever needed. According to Batley, a single-officer response is when an officer in the building engages the active shooter and tries to stop them.

“If we hear shots, then I would get on my radio real quick and tell the Overland Park police officers ‘There’s an armed person in our school; I need help,’” Batley said. 

Social studies teacher Bart Bates said he was part of a team made of principals and police officers who were trained on what to do if an active shooter entered the building in his last school district. He was licensed through a company called Strategos, which he said is one of the main active shooter prevention training companies. 

Depending on the situation, Bates said there are different approaches to dealing with an active school shooter.

“If you’re in a classroom and a kid pulls out a gun and they start shooting people, at that point, it’s too late to hide; you [have] to take them out. So, you [have] to be prepared to kill them,” Bates said. “Likewise, if the shooting’s out in the parking lot, we don’t run out the door. If we’re at a school assembly or at a basketball game and on the other side of the gym, somebody pulls out a gun, my best move is going to be to get outside.”

Additionally, Bates said his classroom is strategically set up so that in the event of an active shooter in the school, he is prepared. 

“You’ll notice my classroom door 99 percent of [the] time is shut and locked. In the history of the world, nobody has ever been killed in a school shooting if they’re in a classroom where the door was shut and locked,” Bates said. “It’s a little bit of an inconvenience when my door is shut and a student goes to the bathroom and comes back, but that 10 seconds really isn’t that big of a deal. Why would you not at minimum have a school policy where that’s the case?”

He also recommends everyone be trained on what to do in case of an active shooter. 

“I’m extremely biased, but I think 100 percent, everybody in society, should be trained,” Bates said. “You tend to think, ‘Look at our community, it’s safe here,’ but [if] you look at where the shootings are happening, it’s not in the inner city, normally. It’s in suburban, predominantly wealthy communities.”

Unlike Blue Valley, the Olathe School District’s protocol in case of an active shooting is for students to evacuate the area if it is deemed safe. However, according to Batley, the Blue Valley Department of Safety and Security found that students were less likely to be hurt if they remained locked inside a classroom. 

Additionally, he said a large group of students trying to leave the building could confuse responding officers. 

“If I pull up and I see 500 kids just streaming out of school, trying to determine are these kids potential suspects, trying to weave my way through them to get into the school [will] take more time,” Batley said. “So, having everyone blocked in a safe room is, I think, the best option that the school district believes is available.” 

However, in the event of a mass shooting such as the Chiefs rally shooting, in a follow-up email interview Batley said the best thing to do is to get away from the threat and hide. 

“If you are out in the open, such as a parade, then you need to move! If you can get behind a brick or concrete wall, do so,” Batley said.

During the shooting, Gowda said there was a mob of people running in one direction after the gunshots were fired. 

“Everyone was running and screaming trying to get as far away as possible,” Gowda said. “It was really chaotic and we had no way of knowing what was going on.”

Last year, BVNW had an incident after school where an alleged armed suspect was believed to have been on campus. According to assistant principal Kelsey Bakalar, the response from the police department was quick and thorough. 

“I would say the police were here within a couple of minutes,” Bakalar said. “We were in lockdown for quite some time because they cleared the building twice.” 

Since then, the school has taken further steps to ensure the safety of students and staff by getting badges from the company Centigix. Bakalar said that these badges improve communication between teachers in case of an active shooter scenario. 

“Once you push [the button on the badge] every teacher is notified on their desktop and then the lights and the sounds go off,” Bakalar said. “We’ve all had training, and you have to take the training. . . every year.”

Before the Chiefs shooting, Bakalar said she felt safe with the school’s safety procedures. However, since the shooting, she does not know if preventative measures such as these can actually stop an active shooter. 

“They had so much in place to keep people safe, but it still didn’t prevent the shooting,” Bakalar said. “I think we do everything we can to keep our kids safe but it doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen.”

To teach students lockdown procedures, the school conducts drills to make sure everyone is aware of what to do. In the U.S., it is common to practice these scenarios, however, according to senior foreign exchange student, Elena Santelli, she only began to experience lockdown drills after moving to America.

“We only had drills for fires and earthquakes, not for guns,” Santelli said. “I already knew what I was getting myself into [when coming to the U.S.]…[but] it was so strange because I just came here and everyone was talking about guns in the middle of the hallways.” 

Before coming to the U.S., Santelli said her family was worried about school shootings and took them into account when picking out where she would live and go to school. Now, Santelli said she has become accustomed to hearing news about gun violence. 

“When I first came and we had a lockdown, that was [the newest] thing for me… now it doesn’t affect me as much as it did before. I deal with it like everyone else,” Santelli said. 

According to Bates, there is a large difference between the number of Americans who keep guns in their homes and people living in other countries who keep guns in their homes. 

“The Second Amendment guarantees us the right to bear arms. I think there’s something about the sport of hunting in the history of our country that people are a little more protective of it,” Bates said.

As a gun owner himself, Bates believes owning a gun is acceptable, however said something must be done to reduce gun violence in the U.S.

“I’m all for people having guns and firearms and hunting,” Bates said. “But at the same time, I think there’s some things we can do in order to make us safer, I think we need to compromise somewhere in the middle. We’ve got to do something more than what we’re doing right now as a country.”

Additionally, Shetterly said the Chiefs parade shooting caused his perspective on gun laws in the U.S. to change. 

“I was pretty content with gun laws [but] now after experiencing that firsthand, it’s a whole new perspective change for me, so probably a little stricter gun laws enforced,” Shetterly said.

According to Gowda, experiencing the shooting at the parade strengthened her view on gun laws. 

“I don’t think this changed my perspective [on gun control laws], it just reinforced my perspective of it,” she said. 

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About the Contributors
Alyssa Gagnon, Writer
Alyssa Gagnon is a senior and writer for “The Express” as well as a designer. This is her third year on staff. Outside of newspaper, Alyssa is involved in soccer, Quill and Scroll, NHS, SNHS and Kay Club. In her free time, she loves to hang out with her friends, travel, play soccer, go to the gym, and listen to music. Alyssa is very thankful to be apart of “The Express” and is excited to see where this year takes her.
Inaya Zaman, Writer
Inaya Zaman is a sophomore and a writer for “The Express”. This is her first year on staff. Along with being a part of the newspaper, Inaya is involved in Husky Headlines and KAY Club. In her free time she likes to read, hang out with friends, and binge watch TV. She also enjoys baking and cooking. She is grateful for this opportunity and looks forward to the year ahead. 

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