Sounds began haunting Christine Shumock after Feb. 14.
The day was full of school-day familiarities like the rich smell of pancakes, her daughter
Her radio broadcasted news of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The static-fizzled voice reported 17 people dead, and profound despair overtook Schumock. When her children came back from school she embraced them like one would a returning soldier.
Reflecting on the recent sprawl of mass shootings, Shumock said she does not think Auburn High School is doing enough to ensure comprehensive safety.
A prominent problem is the structure of the actual building, she said. Huge panels of glass construct the building’s exterior, and the same openness is exhibited inside with full-width glass corridors making up the classroom wall.
“A lot of parents and children have been concerned about the design of our high school from the very beginning,” Shumock told The Plainsman.
The building was completed in May 2017, and students and teachers moved in this school year. Construction of the $71.6 million high school was done by Rabren General Contractors of Auburn. Shumock and other parents do not think the large sum of money was put to practical use.
“It’s beautiful, but it’s a giant aquarium shooting gallery,” Shumock said. “There’s nowhere to be safe.”
Debates regarding gun control have begun branching off into discussions on school structures and how places of learning can be built to emphasize both engaging and safe academic environments.
Schumock wants students to at least have a chance in the case of a shooter emergency because, right now, the glass wall inhibits opaque cover. Other parents have equally disdainful thoughts on the glass walls.
Amanda Vaughan has a son attending AHS and has been in many schools herself since her mother was once a superintendent. Vaughan sees kids from the high school regularly at church and has asked for their thoughts on the new academic building. The overwhelming response, she said, was negative because the students feel self-conscious walking down the hallway with everyone looking at them from classrooms, and students in classrooms feel distracted by people strolling the hallway.
Vaughan and Shumock said many parents support putting up walls where glass is situated and have suggested that even a wall 75 percent covered could provide ample protection and natural sunlight.
“The school system responded (to community members concerned about glass) by noting that the glass creates transparency and unobstructed sightlines to building entrances, schoolyards, parking lots and interior common space, offering surveillance to outside threats,” the Opelika-Auburn News reported last week. “While the glass is not bulletproof, it is shatterproof.”
When asked to comment on this statement, Vaughan said that no difference can be made if a dangerous person can be seen running in from the outside, and by then, it’s too late.
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Last week, Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson called for increased officer presence at Auburn City Schools, including a minimum of six officers at AHS.
The heart of the problem for Vaughan, however, was in the conversation she had with her son about the Parkland mass shooting and the gun-infested world he’s inherited.
“Columbine occurred when my second child was 4 months old, so he has never lived in a world without that, and I will never forget it,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan spoke about her 16-year-old son showing rare vulnerability while discussing the possibility of a shooting in his high school. It was Thursday, Feb. 15, one day after 17 people lost their lives in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Vaughan’s son had just seen a video of the shooting with his friends during lunch.
“My son said, ‘You know, me and my buddies talked about it. If there was a shooting here at Auburn High School, we’d all be dead with those stupid glass classrooms.’ That was a lunch conversation between boys,” Vaughan said. “Well, what would you do if you were in the courtyard? Are there any trees or bushes so you can hide?” Vaughan asked her son.
“No mom, we would just run,” her son said. “We looked out to the woods and guessed how long it would take.”
AHS Principal Shannon Pignato declined to comment for this story. Representatives from the school system did not return requests for comment.
Vaughan happened to be in Montgomery for a statewide Moms Demand Action Advocacy Day on the afternoon of the Parkland school shooting.
They were against a proposal put forth to remove permit requirements for concealed carry in Alabama. The same dreadful broadcast heard by Shumock now plagued the psyche of Vaughan on the 50-mile journey back to Auburn.
While Vaughan and Shumock uphold the importance of improving the school’s structure, their fundamental belief in solving the root of the problem lies in their total support of a complete ban on assault weapons in Alabama, they said.
“No one is serious about solving this until they’re serious about an assault weapon ban,” Vaughan said.
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Vaughan said she plans on being in Washington D.C. on March 14 alongside the nation’s students planning a school walkout.
“I want the politicians to look up at the moms who have had enough,” Vaughan said.
Shumock also sees hope in the students fighting for the banning of rapid-fire weapons.
“I completely support young people taking a stand,” Shumock said. “It is the young people who are on the front line, and we have to support them.”
Nineteen years since Columbine, six years since Sandy Hook and two days after Parkland, Shumock sat at the kitchen table when she heard the screeching echo of a fire truck’s siren outside her home.
She wondered if it headed toward her children’s high school, and she wondered why such thoughts now invaded her consciousness. The sound swirled around her kitchen as the faint hums of emergencies carried throughout her neighborhood. The sounds did not cease, and the haunting continued.
At night, however, another sense takes oversight. Shumock can see her children, and it brings relief. Algebra homework, ACT prep tests and flyers advertising graduation rings bring reassurance.
When whimsical vibrations from a piano chime at 7 a.m., the sound does not haunt Shumock — it helps.