Locked in: opinions on school gates


Lena Zeng

The sign printed with “All vehicles are subject to search on school property” is posted outside of the main building near the front parking lot. Many students and teachers walk past the sign daily without thinking much about it, but according to Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA): Title 49 – Education: “All vehicles are subject to search on school property.”

Due to concerns of exposure, one source opted to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Source A.

Five years ago, gates were installed at White Station High School. They were put in place to restrict and control access to people and cars that would come in and out of the campus. The goal was to protect the students and their cars within the campus and to prevent others who were not supposed to be on school grounds from entering. However, throughout the years, how effective have the gates really proven to be?

Being off of Poplar Avenue, there are many bustling restaurants and shops around White Station. A number of students express their desire to be an open campus once again to explore all that East Memphis has to offer. 

“Many of us feel like the gates we have right now are more for keeping us in despite the purported intention of them being there to protect our car[s] — that rather than being a tool for protection, they’re being used as a way for restriction,” Source A said.

In order to leave campus during school hours, a student must first be properly checked out through the main office, which will then call for an administrator or school personnel to unlock the gates to allow that person to exit campus. Some students claim that they have been inconvenienced by the gates due to this procedure. 

“I think the biggest con [to the school locking the gates] is the administration and staff’s slowness to open the gates,” Anna Rooker (12) said. “If students plan on leaving during the school day for an appointment of some sort, you have to add on 15 [minutes] of time just to get the gates unlocked.”

While having the gates at school sounds like an adequate method in protecting the students within the campus, the gates at White Station fail to fulfill the expectations. Due to the structure of the gates, trespassers can effortlessly walk over them and enter school grounds.

“At public schools like White Station, however, school buildings, not protected by gates or fences, are easily accessible to intruders,” Source A said.And even the gates that are present can easily be walked over and counterproductively remain open during off hours.”

Despite restrictions established by administration, such as not allowing students to receive food deliveries whether from a family member or on an app, students have found other methods to get food from outside sources. Gates or no gates, students will come up with ways to either get food in or leave campus.

“If the gates are locked and students want to leave, they will just find another way to leave,” Rooker said. “I mean they serve their purpose by locking the student’s cars in, but just because a student’s car is locked in, doesn’t mean they are.”

The administration feels similarly about many of these student opinions; however, because of concerns with overall safety, they feel that it is best for all students to remain on campus and within the school gates. 

“In the grand scheme of things, I wish we were in a safer community and environment where students could have that freedom [to leave during school hours], but in the current climate of our society and community, I feel like it’s safer for students to remain on campus,” Assistant Principal Anthony Bowen said. “Several things can happen to them and put them at risk or harm while being off campus and not being properly monitored or supervised.”

At the end of the day, for Bowen and White Station staff, whether or not the gates have served their purpose throughout these years, it is important to remember that safety is always the number one priority. 

“Gates or no gates, students should take the safety of the campus personally,” Bowen said. “And that should reflect in their decision making and choices. We all want to be safe, but we don’t necessarily all want to do the things [it takes] to be safe, so we should be considerate of that as we make decisions and choices day to day.”