LCUSD Governing Board Considers More Safety Measures

The 17th school shooting in the nation this year occurred Tuesday morning at a high school in Maryland. On Tuesday night, concerned members of the La Cañada Unified School District community reconvened at a Governing Board meeting to talk security locally.
“Everything we can do, we will,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said.
That includes anything from inviting a pack of drug-sniffing dogs to visit the La Cañada High School campus to scheduling conversations with architects about fencing at all of the district’s traditionally open campuses.
It won’t include, she said, plans to train teachers to carry weapons: “We don’t have any anticipation of gun training for our teachers,” she said. “Our teachers are educators and I want them to feel supported. In terms of [personal development training], what they’re asking for is responsiveness to active shooter training, lockdown drills, all the questions that come up with how complicated these situations are.”
They’ll be getting that additional training, Sinnette said.
She also said she’ll ask the Sheriff’s Department, per direction from the board, to keep a second resource officer on the LCHS campus. Sinnette initially requested the additional law enforcement presence to respond to last month’s “crisis,” when tensions were high following the arrests of three students and three drug-related medical emergencies on campus, as well as the Parkland, Florida, shooting that killed 17 people.
The plan, she said, was to have that extra resource officer at LCHS until the end of this week, when spring break begins.
“I called up the Sheriff’s and said, ‘I need an additional community resource officer,’ and they went to great lengths to get that for me for the last three, four weeks,” Sinnette said. “They’re not equipped to provide that continual resource. If we decide that that’s the direction we want to go, we’ll have to work with law enforcement to create a year-long contract.”
Agreeing with some parents in the audience Tuesday, board members suggested the optics alone of having extra law enforcement personnel around could serve as a deterrent, making it worth the request.
Sinnette also said the sheriff’s department would continue patrolling the areas around schools more frequently, and that the district brought aboard “independent service contractors” to patrol LCHS. These are walk-on coaches, Sinnette said, who have received training from the school’s head of security Tanya Wilson, and have been vetted by the Department of Justice.
“They know our culture, they know our kids, and they’re involved. It’s a see-something say-something, more-eyes-and-ears situation,” said Sinnette, who noted that one parent said additional Sheriff’s personnel made her child anxious.
The district — which at Tuesday’s meeting authorized an agreement with Linik Corp. to oversee and coordinate projects related to the Measure LCF bond — also will make campus fencing a priority.
Mark Evans, LCUSD’s Chief Business and Operations Officer, said work has started to determine options for fencing at the three elementary schools. Board members suggested the district also expedite planning for fencing at the high school, which is larger and even more porous.
“I know it’s a major fix,” board member Dan Jeffries said. “But if it’s anything we can look at for this summer to start moving in the right direction [at LCHS], to channel people to the front entrance, we should.”
The sooner the better, board member Joe Radabaugh said, even if construction occurs during the academic year.
“The expectation is we move as fast as we can,” Radabaugh said. “I think [the school community] would probably live with some disruption for something so important.”
Sinnette also discussed updating the district’s search and seizure policy with board members. If they approve it at the April 17 board meeting, school families will be made aware of students’ right to bring their belongings with them while dog-sniffing dogs check their classroom only at the beginning of the school year. Currently, teachers read a script informing students of their right to take their belongings with them every time those dogs arrive.
“If kids ask, ‘May I take my backpack?’ they’ll get the right answer. We’re not going to try to trick our kids or hide anything. But we’re going to eliminate reading the script each time,” Sinnette said. “That was very good in terms of protecting their civil rights, but it nullified the whole purpose of the search.”
As for testimony from students that the arrival of a drug-sniffing dog is typically known campus-wide within minutes, parent Deborah Parker suggested the district investigate “having 10 or 20 dogs and they all come in at once.”
Sure, Sinnette said, if enough K-9 search teams are available.
“They are in huge demand,” Sinnette said. “But it’s something we can look at.”
They’ll also consider improved locking mechanisms for doors at LCHS, additional security cameras and the reintroduction of a peer counseling program and, potentially, a wellness center. Community members are invited to join a task force to explore those and other security options.
The district, which held lockdown drills on all of its campuses after the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, also is considering holding a more-realistic active shooter drill at the high school for the first time, Sinnette said. San Marino High School held such a drill earlier this month.
“I think we need to do so appropriately,” Sinnette said. “But we need to engage with [students], they need to have those skills.… And in terms of providing a roadmap [to a potential shooter], drills need to be varied; we don’t want to make mistakes in efforts to rectify problems. We want to give resources and to be responsible, but we also have to be aware that we’re sometimes in a predatory environment.”

Leave a Reply