DePaul Prep continues safety procedures, uses new faculty communication tool, in wake of nationwide school shootings


On March 27th, 2023, The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee was infiltrated by Audrey Hale, a 28-year-old former student. She broke into the school with ease, carrying an AR-15 rifle, a pistol, and a handgun. She killed three children and three adults with the weapons until she was later shot and killed by police. 

This was the latest mass school shooting in America to date and is one of the fourteen school shootings that has occurred with injuries or deaths in 2023 alone. 

The recent increase of school shootings and gun violence may leave students worried or on-edge, but DePaul College Prep takes numerous steps to increase the safety of its students, faculty, and staff.

Joe Voss, the assistant principal at DePaul College Prep, is heavily involved with the process of keeping the school safe. He says that this topic is something that he thinks about a lot, and that especially with recent events, his mindset has been altered.

“Unfortunately, with all of the tragedies occurring around the nation with shootings, it has had a great impact on DePaul Prep,” he says. “… every day when I wake up and [I am] on my way to school, my concern is how we continue to keep all of our community members safe.”

Dr. Megan Stanton-Anderson, the principal at DePaul College Prep, has had vast experience with this topic as well. She previously occupied the roles of elementary school regional director and principal of Alphonsus Academy, and describes how school safety has changed tremendously over the years. 

Dr. Stanton-Anderson explained that in her many years leading schools, worries about school shootings have increasingly impacted school safety planning. In her experience, it is now much more common than ever before for schools to prepare for the possibility of a person bringing a weapon to campus.

Voss agrees that the topic of school safety has drastically changed over the years as well, and states that the importance of it has greatly changed in his experience. 

“When I was in high school, we didn’t really practice for active threat situations and it wasn’t a priority or concern,” he states. “Nowadays, it’s extremely important that schools are having these conversations and [are] actively preparing for them.” 

Fortunately for DePaul College Prep, Voss and Dr. Stanton-Anderson have applied their wide ranges of expertise and knowledge to the school. The safety committee at DePaul Prep –  composed of assistant principals, deans, the security team, and other adults in the building – constantly look for ways to improve safety. Dr. Stanton-Anderson specifically notes that often, the most impactful measures are rarely noticed. 

“I think the things that kids don’t put together is that they’re doing a phenomenal job of wearing IDs”, she explains. “Kids don’t think of that as safety measures but they really are. They’re telling us that everyone that’s supposed to be here is here – and nobody else.”

Sophomore Anthony Velez says he values the concept of having and wearing ID’s. He thinks it plays a huge role in ensuring school safety, and that it personally makes him feel more safe at school.

“It can definitely be annoying at times, but it overall makes me feel better knowing that wearing and checking for ID’s help prevent intruders from coming inside the school.”

While no system is perfect, enforcing ID wearing, keeping doors secured as much as possible, implementing multiple cameras that can monitor the entire school, and other measures are a part of the endlessly changing effort to keep schools safe.

Other elements of school safety are required school safety drills such as evacuation, lockdown, and fire drills. In fact, there was an active threat drill on April 18th, and this ensures that both students and adults have an understanding of how they would react if a problem were to arise.

“The drills are so that our brains get used to it… The more that we practice that, the more that we think about that, [and] the better prepared we are,” Dr. Stanton-Anderson says. 

There are many procedures and policies aimed at keeping students and staff in the school safe. However, Stanton-Anderson says that an underrated and important part of decreasing harm is making students feel connected in the school community. Making sure students feel a strong sense of belonging in the school is something that comes first before everything else. 

When bringing up the relation between school violence and mental health, sophomore Grady Donnell says it is not a topic that he thinks about often. However, he does say that after some thought, he finds some importance in it. 

“I do feel included in the community at DePaul”, he explains. “And thinking about it, it makes me feel generally happier, so I… get how a negative mindset could lead to more things like violence.”

It’s always about keeping kids not just physically safe, but keeping them emotionally safe as well. Students should feel safe and included, and the school encourages students to build strong relationships with adults in addition to students.  There is always going to be conflict in a school of 1100 teenagers, but Stanton-Anderson says that without a sense of connection and belonging, young people could be at higher risk of hurting others or themselves.

It is important to note that the link between mental health and mass shootings is not clear cut. According to Ragy Girgis, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, about five percent of mass shootings are related to severe mental health and twenty-five percent are associated with psychotic, psychiatric, or neurological disorders. It is not always the case that the shooter has obvious mental health struggles, and mental health disorders are not generally predictive of violence. That being said, many individual cases of school shootings have raised questions about the young shooters’ psychological wellbeing or simply their sense of belonging and connection to their school, community, or family. While research suggests multiple reasons behind these shootings, nobody can ever be too certain, and making students feel welcome is not for nothing. When students feel they belong and are cared for, they might be less likely to commit violence or more likely to ask for help in a crisis.

“We need everyone’s cooperation and support as we work together as a community to continue to keep our school safe,” Voss says. “We welcome people to continue to ask questions and have these tough conversations because that’s the only way we continue to get better at what we do and tighten up our safety measures.”

While the ways schools have increased protection and safety have evolved over time, so have the ways that people could potentially harm them. In fact, in the first two weeks of April, there were twenty-one incidents of swatting in the state of Illinois according to This is when someone calls in a false active shooter or any other source of danger with a purpose to cause panic and distress.

“Someone could call within the school or it could be someone from outside the school that could call and say there is an active shooter… and they’re all hoaxes,” Dr. Stanton-Anderson explains.

If these types of incidents occur, they need to make sure they’re prepared to handle and manage them properly, which is a reason why the school has implemented the Raptor Alert system. This is an app that allows faculty in the building to communicate immediate dangers to each other. The app includes five buttons: lockdown, lockout, evacuate, shelter, and hold, and with the simple click of any one of those buttons, every faculty member is notified to take action accordingly.

“If there’s something that happens on the far East Wing, I might hear it and I might be best equipped to call 911 and put everyone into lockdown because the danger is farther away from me”, she explains. “But if someone comes right in here [the Academic Center], I might be first in line, and I’m going to be the least prepared.”

Managing or even being in a school no matter the circumstances can always be a little scary nowadays, especially if there is a chance that an intruder or any kind of harm comes in the school. However, with this communication tool, DePaul College Prep is able to stay on top of the ever growing need of being required to be prepared for possible dangerous situations, understand how to manage them, and explain how to respond to them.