Improving PHS from inside out

November, 2022
Jane BennettKatie Qin

America has become notorious in the past few years for the almost weekly occurrence of school shootings. Even in our town of Princeton, where violent crimes are rare, school safety has begun to become more of a worry. As such, it’s completely understandable that PHS administrators have decided to double down on its security policies. For example, the school has begun to actually enforce its policy of prohibiting non-seniors from leaving campus and is implementing a measure which will require students to wear lanyards for identification. After all, PHS cannot legally allow students under 18 to leave campus. Ultimately, though these policies are well-intentioned, they overlook one essential question: Why do students want to leave in the first place? Although being on the campus comes with its positives, among them friends and extracurriculars, most of us no doubt associate PHS with stress, schoolwork, and the pressure from our families or ourselves to be successful. Unfortunately, being in school for eight hours a day can take a toll on students’ mental health. As burnout progresses over months of the same monotonous routines, it becomes more and more difficult for us to enjoy going to school. So, it’s no surprise that many PHS students want an escape from the building, allowing them to change up their schedule. The truth is that even with stricter security policies in place, students still find ways to leave during school hours. Unless the school wishes to station vigilant security guards at every entrance and exit and institute harsh penalties for students who choose to leave campus, students will continue to leave. However, there is a better way to prevent students from leaving than instituting a kind of border patrol. Such excessively strict measures would do more to arouse animosity against the administration than to protect students. Instead, we should find a middle ground. The school should institute moderately strict security measures, such as the addition of just a few more guards, in combination with a genuine and systematic effort to make school a place that students actually want to be. On the whole, PHS should make the school more amenable to students who wish to escape from the often-stressful high school academic environment. That means that the school must try to come up with better ways for us non-seniors to be less stressed, especially while on campus. For example, the administration can use the sprawling new wing or one of our three courtyards to create a sort of “common room”, with activities like a Ping-Pong table or Spikeball sets. This way, the school could be made to feel more relaxing and inviting. Furthermore, private study spaces could be created to encourage productivity during free periods, and the Tiger Cafe’s hours could be expanded to provide hungry or decaffeinated students with a mid-day boost. These policies, along with others not listed here, would allow us to have a better relationship with PHS’s campus, and hopefully help us non-seniors feel a little bit less anxious. Of course, it’s understandable that PHS wants to keep its students safe, which includes keeping its younger students on campus during times they don’t have class and making sure that nobody can get into the building unless they’re a member of PHS’s community. Unfortunately, however, in the absence of further measures to improve the school environment, the addition of more easily evaded security measures are a waste of the school’s resources. If the school truly wants to prevent students from leaving campus, it should pair reinforced security measures with new in-school amenities that would help students manage time or give them a break from the often stifling environment of PHS. As such, the administration would be knocking out two birds with one stone—one being school stress, and the other being school security.