Gun violence whizzes like fire alarms in the minds of administrators at fictitious Youngs Bay High School. Administrators believe they can only silence the whine by flipping the switch on student liberties and bring demands to the school board.
Wednesday morning, Astoria High School Room 111 became a school board meeting room, where business teacher Linda O'Bryan's 16 students became parents, teachers, administrators, police and organized students lobbying the board on the administration's proposals.
Students elected to argue in groups with five- to 10-minute presentations for O'Bryan's business law class.
"Vice Principal" Sara Crone advocated for a crackdown including metal detectors, a dress code, drug tests and searches of lockers, backpacks and cars and censorship of student publication and speech.
"We want to take precautions to make sure it stays safe," said Crone, a senior.
"And you feel that we're negligent in that right now?" school board member Josh White asked.
"In a way, yes," she responded.
White is a bus driver in real life and was joined by Tongue Point Job Corps Community Liaison Naomi Ulsted, Lum's Auto Center partner Lori Lum, tanning salon owner Ty Cope and real-life Astoria School Board member Bob Ellsberg.
Students clad in Astoria Police Department uniforms described violence with statistics and advocated putting undercover police in the schools.
In addition to the prohibitions, school administrators requested peer mediation training for all students and counseling for all families at no expense.
Groups such as Parents Against Totalitarianism in Schools - P.A.T.S. - promoted arts and after school activities instead of drugs and metal detectors. Parents for Safety and Students and Teachers - P.S.S.T. - demanded more secure schools by asking the board questions.
"Rather than having a prison at our school, we would like to have peer mediation," said Tracy Hoagland, 16, who represented Students Educated to Resolve Violence Everywhere (S.E.R.V.E.) "If we train one staff member on campus, that teacher can help students."
Ellsberg said, as a board member, he tries to discover what each group has in mind when they make presentations.
He asked "teachers" if they rejected metal detectors because they were worried about losing money on salary negotiations. The "teachers" just giggled.
Ellsberg questioned administrators about the desire for metal detectors. "I'm surprised with the lack of resources and scores on tests, this is your big concern," he said. "But that's what why we pay you the big money."
Hoagland, a junior, said Astoria High School isn't a gangsters' paradise, but students do deal with drug problems. Hoagland wouldn't like metal detectors, but is just learning about the limitations on student freedoms already imposed by the Supreme Court.
"I didn't realize they can go through your backpacks," she said. "I mean I understand lockers. Those are school property. But your backpacks are yours."
She said news of school board cuts to activities like sports trickle down from her parents or other students.
People who make cuts are "just kind of the board members or the head people in education - I don't know who they are - the big people up there," she said.
This group of board members interacted more than the four or five other community groups O'Bryan has invited in the 10 years she's taught at Astoria High School.
Board questions forced Hoagland to back up her research in a way she hadn't tried before.
"They kind of were challenging what you were saying," she said of the board members. "You're not used to that in school."