Shortly after my first week at my public high school, I was introduced to the widely circulated rumor that the architect for my new home of higher learning was also the noted architect for many of the nation’s prisons and correctional facilities. A few steps into the dismal corridors of my high school and you were apt to believe the lore. A few weeks later a gruesome incident sealed the fate of this institution, and allowed the oppressive architecture to take hold of the very soul of the place. Long story short: one afternoon, a few former students at my high school came back to campus looking for trouble, for no particular reason. Some people said they were looking for a particular person that had wronged them. No one knows. Either way, they picked a fight with an innocent student walking alone in the halls and shot him dead fifty yards from where I was. The school went into lockdown (understandably), students were evacuated, and media and law enforcement swarmed, and nothing was ever the same after that. Metal detectors and security guards were posted at every door, and the place became a highly charged, highly paranoid, almost militaristic institution that had lost its innocence.
It could be said that over the last few decades, we have all lost our innocence in regard to personal safety in our public school system. From the events at Columbine High School to the implementation of the Zero Tolerance program, a program designed to keep drugs and weapons off of school campuses, we have entered into a highly alarmist state, where security and discipline has become job #1. The lasting effect of this development has drastically changed the school landscape and moved school administrators and educators into a role of strict authoritarians, and rendered students as inmates to be controlled as well as protected.