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County agencies address targeted school violence at 2021 Safety Summit

School Safety Summit 2021
Matthew Bowler
More than 145 community members met at the County Operations Center to learn about the best practices to prevent and reduce targeted school violence in San Diego County, Nov. 4, 2021.

Reducing targeted school violence was the subject of this year’s School Safety Summit, hosted by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office at the County Operations Center.

The summit, held Thursday, brought together more than 145 community members to learn about the best practices to prevent and reduce targeted school violence in San Diego County.

Deputy District Attorney Andrija Lopez said when agencies like law enforcement, mental health and education collaborate, there is a much better chance of preventing another targeted school violent act.

“Nothing is more important than making a student feel safe so that they can learn and grow,” Lopez said.

She added one discipline cannot do this alone, and said youth are an important resource.

“There is no way to prevent these without students,” she said.“Students are the greatest source of information, backed by the evidence that they have to be courageous enough to come forward and mention if they’ve noticed a concerning behavior, not dismiss it.”

Since the county’s School Threat Protocol was established in 2018, the District Attorney’s Office has received about 150 school threat cases to review and filed charges in more than 40 of those cases.

“Even the ones that don’t turn into a mass attack, that are just threats, victims are greatly impacted — students and staff," Lopez said. "Snd we need to support these victims and recognize the harm it does to their well-being."

“It’s important for everybody, law enforcement, mental health agencies and educators to get on the same page and work together to solve this puzzle called targeted violence,” said Tim Ware, the coordinator for school safety and security for the San Diego County Office of Education.

The San Diego County Office of Education is introducing an online school safety tool kit that will help administrators, educators and teachers keep students safe.

“Safety is everybody’s business because everybody’s business is impacted by safety," he added. "We have to shore up our foundation from a social standpoint and not just continue to put Band-Aids on things, so this is important to open the eyes of people and say look, ‘We need to do more.’”

2021 School Safety Summit brings agencies together to discuss targeted school violence