Paris attacks increase security

In response to the attacks made by al-Qaeda trained terrorists on the Charlie Hebdo magazine’s office in Paris on January 7 and the increased level of a national security threat in the U.K., the school’s security team has implemented new procedures to ensure the safety and protection of the school. All adults in the school must now wear a visible school ID in the building. In addition, all High School students must enter and exit the building using their ID cards.

With the new security measures, people who belong inside the school can be distinguished from those who do not.

While it is unclear how long these measures will be in place for, authorities in Europe first need to ensure there are no other imminent threats to the U.K. before these new protocols are lifted at School. With these new measures, Head of Security Barak Favé said, “It is just adding another layer of security, to tighten it a bit.”

Due to the name of the school and the word “American” being in the title, it could appear to be a threat to some. “If Americans are targets anywhere else in the world, an institute with the word American in it would be a legitimate target for extremists,” Favé said. However, with the added security Favé believes this will try to prevent a situation  from happening at school.

The attacks in Paris highlighted the ways in which terrorists are able to attack a “soft target” Favé said, which is a place that is not a military or police station or headquarters. With the increased attacks on civilian areas, the new security measures add extra protection to prevent a similar situation from occurring at the school.

Midday on January 7, gunmen dressed in black bulletproof vests attacked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris.

While chanting “God is great” in Arabic, the gunmen killed 12 people. This was in response to the Prophet Muhammad being depicted in crude scenes in past issues of the publication.

Following the attacks on the magazine’s office, the gunmen proceeded to shoot a police officer after being stopped further down the street. In addition to this, a man identified as Amedy Coulibaly carried out another act of terrorism on January 9 when he attacked a kosher supermarket and held shoppers hostage. During this attack, four hostages were killed as well as Coulibaly himself.

Students have strong opinions regarding the Charlie Hebdo attacks. For some people, such as Marie Boussard (’16) the recent attacks hit very close to home. “I grew up there, so it’s very shocking to hear these things,” she said.

Following the attacks, Boussard noticed a huge sense of community and solidarity developing in France. “It has become about a lot more than what it used to be,” Boussard said.

Boussard noticed how at first, the concern was for the victims, but since then it has developed into a larger issue of politics and freedom of speech.

“When you behead someone, you are trying to silence them. The terrorists have beheaded several British and Americans over the past few months. Killing journalists that were satirizing extremists is just another way of silencing people,” Boussard said.

Following the attacks, Principal Jack Phillips’ main concern  is the safety of students at the school. While Phillips believes students are more endangered by “typical” behavior from teenagers, such as the use of drugs and alcohol, rather than terrorists, the school was still briefed following the attacks.

Phillips was briefed on general safety and terror alerts in the U.K., specifically London. In addition to this, he was also notified of how other international schools such as The American School in England [TASIS] and ACS Cobham are responding to the attacks, as well as the American School in Paris’s plan.

Director of Operations Jim Heynderickx, who was at the security summit, also told Phillips about the outcome and topics discussed during the leadership summit that occurred two weeks prior to these attacks. At this summit, regional security officers from the U.S. Embassy, counter terror advisory officers, the school’s security consultant, ACS Cobham and Southbank International security managers were present.

While Phillips was informed there is no indication that the U.K., international, and high-profile schools are going to be attacked, but nonetheless, he hopes the new security measures at the school will ensure safety of students and the community.

“I hope, more importantly, that people are vigilant. The best thing that we can do is have people being aware. Just people talking to someone, letting an adult know if something is out of place, if a person who is here who doesn’t belong. But in general, we hope that vigilance and alertness does not come with the expense of raised anxiety, or of nervousness,” Phillips said.

As a community, Philips believes “perhaps a more important and perhaps a more immediate interest would be thinking about how we got here.”

Looking at the underlying issues of what led to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Phillips hopes people are now able to reflect on cultural and ideological assumptions, the freedom of press versus the freedom of religion, and how and when different rights and values collide, in hopes this can be prevented in future situations. “That kind of smart, thoughtful dialogue is how we can engage in what it is and try to grapple what has happened in Paris,” Phillips said.