As we mourn the innocent victims who lost their lives in the senseless tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and ask ourselves why and how has this happened again in our schools, we search for answers that we hope will guide us and give direction on how we can prevent such a horrendous act of violence from ever happening again. Although we may not have all the answers, what we do have – as elected leaders and educators – is a responsibility to ensure that we institute safety and security protocols to ensure our students and staff are safe when they are in our care at school. Schools must remain a safe place where all students can learn, grow and become productive members of society.
In the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), the largest school district in Orange County serving 50,000 students, the Board of Education has a long-standing commitment to the safety of students and staff by investing in a strong, well-trained school police department that is specifically designed to support the school community.
Operating 24 hours a day, each day of the week, the Santa Ana School Police Department monitors and oversees 57 schools while maintaining a strong partnership with the Santa Ana Police Department and many other neighboring law enforcement agencies in Orange County.
All schools are required to develop and submit annual safety plans, and the District has instituted a visitor management system that requires all visitors to provide identification when they check in at an SAUSD school front offices.
The District also has a robust safety and security plan that includes regular training of personnel on emergency procedures. As part of the District’s extensive training, the District Safety Team trains staff on how to survive a school shooting by making the best choices to run, hide or fight. Teachers across the District are being trained to ensure they are equipped for situations that we hope will never occur.
Over the last six years, we have trained staff through a comprehensive threat assessment on how to identify threats and what to do immediately to ensure the safety of all students and staff.
If there is an incident or trauma to a student, our Crisis Response Team is trained to provide immediate assistance, support, and counseling.
School safety is everyone’s business. It requires the cooperation of students, staff, parents, and community members. As we remember the innocent lives lost and the families that will be changed forever, let’s make it a top priority to continue the discussion of school safety and work together to find a solution to prevent such horrendous acts from ever happening again in our communities.
Valerie Amezcua is the President of the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education. She has served the Orange County community as an education advocate, a parent, a supervising probation officer, and a city commissioner. Amezcua is a retired Supervising Probation Officer for the Orange County Probation Department serving 28 years.
Dr. Stefanie Phillips, Ed.D., is the Superintendent for the Santa Ana Unified School District. Dr. Phillips brings 17 years of experience in educational leadership including three years as the District’s Deputy Superintendent of Business & Operations and Chief Business Official. Prior to joining the Santa Ana Unified School District team, Dr. Phillips served as the Deputy Superintendent for both the Clayton County School District in Jonesboro, Georgia, and the Chino Valley Unified School District. She served as the Assistant Superintendent at Ontario-Montclair School District.
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