February 27, 2018
Dear Parents and Guardians,
As follow up to the safety letter sent last week, I wanted to update you on some planned student events as well as inform you about specific safety precautions in place within SPUSD.
We are aware of a series of scheduled walkouts being organized by various groups across the nation. The Women’s March organizers are encouraging “students, teachers and their allies to walk out of schools on March 14 to protest gun violence.” Survivors of the Parkland shooting announced a March for Our Lives event in March as well. We respect our students’ rights to engage in civic discourse. It is our responsibility to make certain that these activities take place in a safe and productive manner. The middle school and high school administrations are connecting with student leaders to ensure that, should a student-led walkout take place, all views will be respected and activities will be safe for both participants and non-participants. Furthermore, school officials will clearly communicate to the students that leaving campus during the school day is not safe or permissible. All school employees are responsible for maintaining a safe and orderly environment and may not encourage students to leave school or participate in a student led walkout. Again, students’ rights to engage in civic discourse will be respected. However, students are not permitted to leave campus. We will provide an update on this issue as more information is available.
Since the Florida tragedy, I have received several inquiries regarding school safety. SPUSD employs certified specialists who are experienced and diligent in following existing regulations/protocols designed to help accurately identify, assess, and report unusual behavior to outside agencies. It is important to understand that our authority, once reported, over individuals who exhibit extreme and/or concerning behavior is limited. Our shared expectation is that all agencies involved take their responsibilities seriously, and when credible threats do – very rarely – arise, everyone is able to successfully navigate what can be extremely complex legal and mental health systems. In all safety matters, we work closely with the South Pasadena Police Department who have a successful history of demonstrating diligence and care for our community. Also, please be assured that SPUSD staff will continue to remind students of the need to report any suspicious behavior.
In addition to the policies and procedures already in place, SPUSD has also implemented the following affirmative measures in the last several years to better ensure the safety of our students, parents, and staff:
- On-going collaboration with the South Pasadena Police Department;
- South Pasadena Police Department Active Shooter training at secondary schools;
- Train Your Brain (TYB) social-emotional/behavioral intervention program for at-risk students at SPMS and SPHS;
- A District Safety Committee to provide on-going review and updates to District safety procedures;
- Door blocks at all schools;
- Walkie-talkies/new communication system District-wide including Extended Day;
- Battery back-up for communication system;
- Security cameras at all schools & District office;
- Fencing at school sites;
- Annual review of Comprehensive School Safety Plan by School Site Councils;
- ID badges for all employees;
- Active shooter training for all employees;
- Fire, earthquake and lockdowns/active shooter lessons for all students;
- Back-up generators for each site;
- “Potty” buckets for every classroom;
- Updated student release procedures at all sites;
- Emergency backpacks in every classroom – checked and restocked annually;
- Safety lesson presented to all students by staff covering fire, earthquake and lockdowns/active shooter scenarios;
- CPI/non-violent intervention training for all special education staff and site administrators; offered for all interested teachers;
- Ongoing School Violence Threat Assessment and Suicide Risk Assessment trainings for school psychologists, school counselors, and site administrators;
- Professional development and parent workshops to address student anxiety, depression, and risk factors for suicidal ideation/behavior;
- Professional development for classroom teachers on handling “Challenging Behaviors.”
As a reminder, all schools have access to counseling and psychological supports for our students. If any child needs support, please contact the school’s administration, school counselor, school psychologist, or the Student Support Services Department at the District office.
At SPUSD, student safety is our top priority. We continuously review and update existing programs as well as add new training and equipment that we feel will help keep our students and staff safe. We appreciate your support in our on-going efforts.
Geoff Yantz, ED.D.