School reacts to Westminster attack

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An unnamed attacker ran over multiple people with a car before crashing into the railings near the houses of Parliament, in the early afternoon of March 22. Police officers shot the terrorist, but not before he stabbed a police officer to death. In total, five died.

The so-called Islamic State group claimed that the attacker was a “soldier of the Islamic State,” according to the BBC.

At 2:57 p.m. Head of Security Barak Favé received a text message informing him of the incident.

After checking BBC and other news outlets, Favé and senior administration confirmed the attack. They then discussed the impacts on the school community and how to respond. Though Favé could not specify what they are, he said the school holds procedures in place for these situations, and they often adapt to each individual case. “Procedures are great on paper, but when something like that happens, suddenly you have so many things to consider,” Favé said. “You take the protocols as guidelines, but it always changes. Every case is based on so many factors that it will always deviate from those guidelines.”

After recent attacks in Nice, France and Brussels, Belgium, Head of School Coreen Hester, in conjunction with the security team, prepared for an attack in London. “I have been waiting for something to happen in London, because our name is the next name in that list of cities,” Hester said. “We have always said when, not if.”

The attack at parliament mirrors recent terrorist attacks elsewhere in Europe, where the main weapon was a car. “We anticipated ramming attacks and stabbing as the main means of terror attacks in Europe and the U.K., so we didn’t need to enhance anything,” Favé said. “We look at the trends. The trends are using very low-tech means of attack: Knives, cars. This is something we already prepared for long ago.”

With school ending at 2:10 p.m., few students remained in the building at the time of the attack. Favé and other members of administration focused their concern on students practicing sports at Canons Park. Anticipating potential delays in the Jubilee Line, which serves Westminster, St. John’s Wood and Canons Park stations, the school sent an additional bus to collect High School students from the fields.

Hester categorizes the impact on the school and school-sponsored activities as “minimal,” but felt it was necessary to text members of the community. “If you have something bad happen and you don’t have any kind of reassurance that the community you function in is cognizant of it, then we would contribute to the anxiety by not communicating.”

The school initially sent a text message at 3:51 p.m. informing parents that no changes would be made to school activities, and subsequently sent another message 10 minutes later updating parents that students would return from Canons Park via bus.

Despite the change in transportation, sports practices resumed. “We didn’t want to affect our activity [as] an act of defiance, but also because we didn’t think it was necessary. They weren’t a direct threat,” Favé said.

Two basketball games scheduled at school continued as planned.

Favé asserts that security procedures in place means the school remains prepared for similar attacks. “We shouldn’t let anything like that dictate our reality, we should just carry on and show them that we are unaffected by this.”

Photo from David Caster