Skip to Content

South Carolina Honors College

Thirty-One Seconds

by Shaina Dashiell

The following is fiction but based on real-life events:

It took twenty-two seconds for everything to change. Six seconds to get through the unlocked door. The door with no alarm, no metal detector, no security. In eight seconds, they have remarkably made it down the hall to the first sign of life they see, a classroom. The following four seconds are spent simply opening yet another unlocked door. The last four, pulling the trigger. The token mentally unstable twenty-year-old male has now massacred a third-grade class, roughly twenty-four students, one teacher, in a grand total of twenty-two seconds. This is an unimaginably devastating occurrence, but the more taunting reality is that a single lock could have saved the lives of an entire class of innocent children.

My journey to school is the same as most: wake up, get dressed in the jeans I wore last Thursday... (was it?), eat a nutritious breakfast of teeth-rotting cereal, and lug my forty pounds worth of textbook-loaded bags into the back of my car. I go through my scenic drive past a McDonald's on every block and, of course, enjoy the lovely bumps from the craters – I mean potholes – in the beautiful South Carolina roads. I arrive at the packed parking lot and fight against a white Honda for a spot five feet closer to the door compared to the perfectly open spot next to it. The door by the car rider line is always locked, it is very inconvenient considering my first block is right there. But anyone from the school knows if you give it a nice tug, the door will open.

The main entrance doors are also always unlocked along with the door in front of the senior parking, and the doors for the cafeteria, and (this one’s a secret not many people know about) the math hallway door. That door tucked away in the shadows of the school is permanently cracked open. With my multitude of entrances, I always go through the cafeteria doors the custodial staff “forgot” to lock and “definitely will next time” since it’s conveniently by my robotics class. I make an effort to stroll by the one school resource officer who is always flirting with the female English teachers. One time a fight broke out right in front of him, but he had to make sure one teacher knew that if she were a fruit, she’d be “a fine-apple.” His daily pickup lines are quite humorous to me. When I sit down in my class, I usually realize I have forgotten my student ID somewhere in the school. Well, it doesn’t really matter; no one checks them anyway.

My school typically does lockdown drills once a semester and today seems to be the lucky day. We hear the monotone “This is a lockdown drill” announcement from the muffled speakers, and the class groans. We hate lockdown drills. Everyone piles into the corner of the classroom to hide from any open window. This has always confused me considering all of our belongings are still out in the open. The guys in my class crowd around each other to watch that one rival football game on their phones, while the girls turn their camera flash on to check their makeup. Of course, their makeup needs to have a touch-up during a shooting … well, it was only a drill, after all. This wouldn’t happen to us. And if it did, they wouldn’t be blasting football and doing makeup. They would actually lock the doors and hide the bags. They would definitely protect us. Right.

Directly after the drill ends, the teacher unlocks all the doors and continues teaching.

If this really happened, we would definitely be able to lock all the doors in time. Right… it only took thirty-one seconds to lock the doors and windows. That’s quick. Nothing could go wrong. Right? We are completely safe.

The problem with school security in South Carolina is not the lack of it, but rather the lack of enforcement and accountability. I am greeted daily with a reminder of school IDs, the slowly operated school shooter drills, the observation of unused metal detectors, and the mention of lazy school resource officers, but none of these security options will keep me secure if a real crisis were to occur. I should not be scared of death when I enter my school. This is the problem. Accountability is the answer. Enforcement is the answer.

Shaina Dashiell

About Shaina Dashiell

Shaina Dashiell of Irmo is a junior at Chapin High School, where Dr. Dawn Weathersbee is her English teacher. The daughter of Elissa and Chris Dashiell, Shaina plans to study music at a university.

Shaina Dashiell on Instagram.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.