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Safety in the Hawk Nest

AHS’s biggest safety opponent: DOORS
Nolan McNulty
In the wake of the Perry school shooting on Jan. 4, safety is at the forefront of many student’s, teacher’s, parent’s, and community member’s minds when it comes to schools. Ankeny High School’s biggest current safety concern, the fine arts parking lot doors.

During the 2021-2022 school year, there were 327 school shootings, according to reports by the National Center for Education Statistics. As a result, 2023 and 2024 have seen more schools cracking down on safety. At Ankeny High School (AHS), one of the biggest safety concerns is not anything too complicated: doors. For most, doors would not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering safety hazards, but because of the sheer size of AHS with approximately 1,300 students, doors are more important than most would think. Without emergency alarms on most, doors are a way to let anyone into the building whenever someone is there to let them in.

“I want to say that we have close to 30 doors in this building [that lead to the outside],” Associate Principal Wade Grinhaug said. “Six years ago when we got to Thanksgiving break, I remember this one year we had seven people who were in our building that were not our students. Each of them had been let in by a door that was not our front door.”

Recently at AHS, the back parking lot by the fine arts section of the building has been a safety concern. Students have been letting in other students through the doors located at this parking lot during the school day, which may not seem like a problem but could escalate quickly. It only takes one wrong person getting into the building to create a safety issue. In St. Louis, a gunman killed two people and injured others. This man was not let into the main entrance of a school where security guards were stationed, CNN reports.

“It is a true safety issue with all the doors and all the parking lots,” Assistant Principal Nick Nelson said. “That parking lot back by the fine arts, we don’t have anyone just to stand there all day. I think that’s the biggest thing [we’re concerned about with safety] is where the parking is.”

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Another safety concern for administrators at Ankeny is one of some student’s favorite parts of their day, open campus. Having the opportunity to have an open campus instead of a study hall is generally favored by most students. However, having the chance for students to roam the halls unattended also becomes a safety concern because there could be students wandering around who do not go to Ankeny in the building. This could come across to teachers as students during their open campus.

“We’ve tried when students have open to do our best to say here’s where you can be, you shouldn’t be anywhere else,” Nelson articulated. “So we kind of have those study areas that [math teacher Deborah Cote-Glander] is populating with the furniture. We have those areas, the Perky Hawk, the media center, and the commons. That’s kind of the only places we should be seeing students [during their open campus].”

One of the biggest scares at schools in the 2020s has been school shootings. As reported by the Sandy Hook Promise Organization, over 43,000 kids were exposed to gunfire at school last year. Intruders with malicious intentions often have past exposure to domestic abuse or mental health issues, as reported by CBS.

“We have good security. We have good mental health protocols,” junior Julius Wiegand said. “My opinion is that the school is doing good, checking doors, [offering] mental health [services], but there’s some stuff that the school can’t do by itself, everyone has to work together to keep us safe. So yes, I feel safe here.”

On Jan. 4, 2024, the middle and high school students from Perry, Iowa were supposed to come back from their winter break and start their second semester of the year. However, this did not happen because a Perry High School student entered the building with multiple firearms in the morning. He killed sixth grader Ahmir Jolliff and injured seven others including Perry High School principal Dan Marburger. The Perry shooting reminded students and staff about safety protocols in schools across the nation. Keeping administration near populated doors during the day is currently one way that Ankeny is keeping students safe.

“I think it is a good idea [having administrators stand by locked doors],” junior Duncan Beelner said. “Because then it enforces the school rules of not letting people in and making sure no one who is supposed to get in gets in.”

Remember, that if you see something, say something. If you ever feel the need to report a safety concern, the TIPS reporting system is a good way to inform Ankeny administrators of any safety concerns. (Infographic made by Nolan McNulty using

Grinhaug has said that staff and administrators go through training to prepare in case of a safety emergency.  According to Grinhaug, staff do training drills, online training, and have dedicated time to do safety training. Also, AHS has a School Resource Officer (SRO) that patrols the school. Ankeny’s SRO Kory Miller, as a police officer, has more training than an average security guard. 

“You get what you pay for,” Grinhaug explained. “There’s a huge difference in the quality from somebody who goes through a couple of trainings to be a security guard versus a police officer who goes through a lot of training and testing.”

Statistics have shown to Ankeny administrators that a room is statistically safer when the door is locked. Classrooms keep their doors locked during the school day. Doors to the outside are locked unless opened by a school official or if someone opens them when they should not. These policies working together with Ankeny’s safety team keep most students feeling safe at AHS.

“I mean there’s no doubt Ankeny is really safe,” junior Tyson Rauser said. “Basically Ankeny has many people to work together to make it a safe environment and make everyone feel safe and comfortable.”


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About the Contributor
Nolan McNulty, Staff Reporter
Nolan McNulty is a junior at Ankeny High School. In his free time, Nolan likes to hang out with his friends and family, watch movies, and lift weights. He plans on going to the University of Iowa after high school. A fun fact about Nolan is that he enjoys listening to rap music.
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