Education officials react to Saugus School Shooting

Families reunite on the streets outside of Saugus High School as students were evacuated following a shooting on campus Thursday that left at least two dead. November 14, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal.

As law enforcement attempted to work their way into the Saugus High campus Thursday, teachers and administrators worked to get students out.

“There’s almost 2,000 kids at this school … it’s unacceptable (what happened today), but it could have been so much worse,” said board member Joe Messina of the William S. Hart Union High School District.

“The gun violence experienced across our nation, and all too often on school campuses, has prompted our district, like others, to conduct staff and student trainings for these unthinkable events,” said Hart District Deputy Superintendent Mike Kuhlman. “We take the training seriously; we prayed that we would never need it. Yet today, our brilliant staff bravely and vigilantly went into action.”

Dozens of teachers and school administrators worked with students both on campus and in Central Park. Their comforting presence was used to help students check in and eventually reconnect with their parents.

“Immediately upon learning about the shooting, members of the district’s administrative team went to the hospital to confirm student identities, and to serve as a resource to these families in distress,” said Kuhlman. “I share this detail to assure you that we always work with urgency to assist parents and to communicate about their child’s condition, especially when dealing with a life-threatening situation.”

It was not only the district and Saugus staff/administrators that worked to help students feel safe. All other schools in the Hart District were placed on lockdown, as well, and it was left to the teachers to reassure their frightened students.

“All we could really do as a locked-down site was keep the calm while trying to field through all the news and info we were given,” said Christine Bernhardt, an astronomy teacher at West Ranch. “We all have friends who teach (at Saugus High), family members who go there and direct ties to those affected. None of us could really process on our own until much later. Today really shined a spotlight on our amazing staff and district.”

Kuhlman said the district would close all schools on Friday and wanted to give students and staff the opportunity to come together to process their feelings with counselors, with their teachers, and with one another.

“We believe bringing students together, and in a different setting, will allow them to discuss the process for returning to the campus,” said Kuhlman. “All district counselors and additional support provided by neighboring districts will be available to our students and staff.”

District counselors and additional support staff are available Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church, located at 22833 Copper Hill Drive.

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