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San Diego's plan to keep schools safe in 'active shooter' event

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Parents waiting outside Rosa Parks Elementary in City Heights October 6, 2021

Rosa Parks Elementary School in City Heights was put into lockdown Wednesday morning as San Diego Police looked for an active shooter just blocks away. Parents waited outside the school for an all-clear, which, in fact, came just in time for the regular noon dismissal of students.

Corayma Campuzano had two children in the school.

San Diego's plan to keep schools safe in 'active shooter' event
Listen to this story by M.G. Perez.

“I just waited until a teacher said it was clear and went straight to the front door," she said. “The shooting happened outside but what if someone was crazy and would go into the school with a gun?”

That did not happen. All students and staff were safe and no one was harmed.

A return to in-person learning at schools across San Diego County renews the possibility of a violent threat on campuses. Before the pandemic, San Diego County officials were already at work on a new safety plan.

The San Diego County Grand Jury seated in 2018 conducted a review of school preparedness in cases of active shooters. In 2019, the Grand Jury released a report with several recommendations.

Among the recommendations: A proposal to increase funding in school budgets for training, equipment and infrastructure improvements to handle an active shooter crisis for staff and student safety. They also included a directive to conduct active shooter drills with staff that produce “immediacy” of response based on the school’s approved safety plan.

2018-2019 San Diego County Grand Jury School Safety Report
The San Diego County Grand Jury conducted a review of preparedness of San Diego Schools regarding 'active shooter' events.
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The review discovered a need to make sure substitute teachers and all other adult workers receive the same training and practice provided to regular staff on active shooter awareness and response.

The report highlighted a pilot program at Torrey Pines High School, which installed a specialized camera security system. The San Dieguito Union High School District has since installed the system on its other 9-campuses. Many of the other 42-districts and charter and private schools across the county have followed suit with infrastructure improvements and safety drills.

Tim Ware is the School Safety Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education and he has worked on implementing many of the Grand Jury’s recommendations.

“Right now" he said, "we have about half of our districts sending teams to our training as it relates, not only to the school shooting piece but also concerning behaviors that lead up to something like that happening.”

How local schools are working to keep San Diego kids safe

Ware said increased support for mental health services is also a priority for the county as it continues to train teachers and staff members.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.