Student safety is top of mind for Fresno area school districts as they prepare for the return of students from summer break.
Security cameras increasingly are on the front lines of defense in preventing mass shootings.
But district leaders also are stepping up training for active shooter situations and strengthening relationships with law-enforcement agencies.
And they will be increasing safety awareness with campaigns that stress to students phrases such as “see something, say something.”
These efforts are a direct response to the lives lost and shattered by gun violence on campuses throughout the United States.
According to everytownresearch.org, there have been at least 53 incidents of gunfire on school grounds so far in 2018.
They range from the horrors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting that caused the deaths of 17 students and teachers to accidental gunfire in which no one was injured.
In Fresno Unified, for example, the district has installed approximately 1,300 high-definition security cameras covering its middle schools and high schools.
And by next summer, cameras will blanket the district’s elementary schools, too.
The $10 million project is funded by Measure X and is being done in collaboration with the Fresno Police Department.
Camera Installations Start This Fall
Miguel Arias, the chief information officer for FUSD, said the camera installations for the district’s 65 elementary schools will begin this fall.
Arias said district safety teams, in collaboration with school site administration and Fresno PD, will identify camera locations. He said focus areas include access points, student gathering areas, and hard-to-supervise areas.
“Cameras provide an extra layer of safety and security for our students, staff, and community by allowing identification of potential threats in real time, and for information to investigate and respond to incidents,” Arias said.
Arias added that Fresno PD has the ability to access district cameras during specific emergency situations.
Clovis and Central Unified Also Equipped With Cameras
In Clovis Unified School District, every school already has security cameras, ranging from 16 to 32 per site.
Steve France, the assistant superintendent for educational services, said the cameras were funded by the $298 million Measure A bond measure voters passed in June 2012.
Sonja Dosti, the communications and public relations officer for Central Unified School District, said every school in the district is also equipped with security cameras. She said they have been very helpful in investigations.
“Our law enforcement has been able to catch people who try to steal because those things are on camera and we are able to put those images in news media,” Dosti said. “We feel that they are crucial to have.”
See Something, Say Something
In addition to security cameras, Dosti said Central Unified will continue to hammer the phrase “See something, say something,” to staff and students.
“When students see something that seems suspicious or worrisome and they say something, we are able to investigate,” Dosti said.”
Dosti said some high schools within the district may continue holding rallies against violence. She said district officials are also working on presentations for students, parents, and staff on social media best practices in an effort to try and minimize any type of threats that take place on that platform.
“I think a lot of students aren’t realizing that even when they make an idle threat that they could get either a misdemeanor or a felony as it violates Penal Code 422,” Dosti said.
Active Shooter Training
Additionally, Dosti said the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department will provide active shooter training for all of the district’s school sites.
“That’s obviously becoming more crucial at this point,” Dosti said.
Dosti said the district is waiting for Central Unified Board of Trustees to approve another police officer for its secondary schools.
Clovis Unified Focuses on Training
In addition to campus monitors and school resource liaisons, France said Clovis Unified has hired three more officers to its police department. He said they will work hand in hand with the Clovis and Fresno Police Departments, as well as with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department.
“We have joint trainings and joint meetings with them on a regular basis so they are deeply involved in our process of how we keep our schools safe,” France said.
France said Clovis Unified also will continue community outreach meetings and training seminars for staff, students and community members.
“We are only as good as our community, and if our community is looking out for us, it is only going to help our system,” France said.
Free Active Assailant Training At FUSD
In addition to having school resource officers, neighborhood school resource officers and safety assistants, Amy Idsvoog, the communications analyst for FUSD, said the district is adding two safety and security specialists to its department of three.
For the first time ever, Idsvoog said the district will conduct free district-wide active assailant training for all employees. She said there will be similar training for the district’s middle and high school students as well.
“Active assailant training is the new training that we are rolling out on August 8, and we are doing that in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office and that is going to be all staff districtwide,” Idsvoog said.
In terms of what parents can do to keep their kids safe, Idsvoog said the best thing is to sign up for Rapid Alert, the district’s emergency text-messaging system.
“As we head into the new school year, I would encourage parents to sign up for that tool because in the event that something were to happen, a quick text message is a lot quicker way to message a parent than a recorded school messenger,” Idsvoog said.
Safety Is Everyone’s Responsibility
In the end, Idsvoog said school safety is everyone’s responsibility.
“If we are all working collaboratively both as a community as parents and as a school district, we get stronger and are able to keep our kids safe,” Idsvoog said. “But it is not just the responsibility of the school district, it takes all of us.”