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CUSD works to strengthen, improve school safety procedures

The Claremont Unified School District on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution affirming the district’s commitment to provide safe school environments and a “foundation for mental and physical health, personal growth and civic engagement.”

Resolution #09-2018, as presented by Superintendent Jim Elsasser, aims to address school safety issues ranging from harassment to gun violence, which came to the forefront of schools across the nation following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“We have since reviewed lock down protocols at all our school sites,” Mr. Elsasser said to the board. “We have arranged for two drills before the end of the school year—one in March and a second is scheduled for May at the end of recess when campuses tend to be a little more chaotic.”

Conducting active shooter drills during lunch time or at recess will give teachers and support staff the added challenge of corralling kids off playgrounds, he said. Administering two before the end of the school year will also provide time for the district and local police to analyze implementation.

“During lunch, teachers are often in the lounge or even sometimes off campus,” Mr. Elsasser said. “Holding the drills in spring gives us all summer to figure out how to do it better.”

The Claremont Police Department will send an officer to all drills at every campus to assess and advise the district on lock down procedures, he said.

In addition to the resolution—a largely symbolic decree confirming the district’s opposition to violence on campuses—CUSD will hold its first-ever school safety forum on Monday, March 26. The 7 p.m. forum will be presented by the school district and the Claremont Police Department in the El Roble Intermediate School multi-purpose room, located at 665 N. Mountain Ave.

The forum is open to the entire community, however, the district cautions parents that the theme, content and discussion of the evening are not appropriate for children. For more information, call the school district at (909) 398-0609, extension 70102.

The board heard remarks from two parents, Sarah Rockne and Mary Reichert, who both expressed concern  about school safety procedures. Ms. Reichert asked about 25 parents sitting in the boardroom to stand prior to making her public comment. The women, who both have children in the district, also conveyed their gratitude to CUSD for so quickly addressing safety concerns after parents became distressed following the Florida shooting.

A local group has formed, Informed Parents and Caregivers of Claremont Students (IPACCS). Its Facebook page offers “a friendly place for parents and caregivers of CUSD students to connect, collaborate, exchange information, offer support and create positive change within our community of schools.” The online group currently has 376 members.

The resolution adopted by the CUSD board references a May 2017 study titled “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which found that 21 percent of students aged 12 to 18 said they were bullied at school. The study also conceded that 16 percent of the nation’s high school students reported carrying a weapon to school at some point during the 30 days prior.

When CUSD conducted the Local Control Accountability Plan 2017 parent and community survey, 88.84 percent of public school parents said they agreed with the statement “I feel the school campus(es) is/are safe.” Of the 1,362 respondents, only 11 percent (152 people) disagreed with that statement.

In response to question four of the survey, “The school clearly communicates the rules for student behavior,” more than 93 percent (1,268) of parents surveyed agreed.

Of the 1,340 responses to “The school addresses teasing and/or bullying,” 1,156 parents (86.27 percent) indicated they feel comfortable with how CUSD faculty and staff resolve such issues.

In the resolution adopted by the board, CUSD calls on the United States Congress to pass specific legislation to reduce gun violence on campuses and to repeal “the prohibition against data collection and research on gun violence by the US Center for Disease Control.”

Further, the district urges the state of California and congress to “implement commonsense measures” that prioritize student safety and to invest in services and funding for programs that support students’ mental, physical and emotional health.

School Board President Steven Llanusa is encouraged by the parent involvement regarding safe schools.

“We do care what parents think,” he said. “We know how frightening it is, so we thank you for taking the time to ask questions and talk to us.”

The school board will next meet on Thursday, April 19, after the schools return from spring break.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com