Hart District holds first of two meetings on safety policies, procedures

The William S. Hart Union High School District welcomed about 50 members of the community, including school, law enforcement and city officials, for its first of two community safety dialogues on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Tammy Murga/ The Signal

About 50 members of the community, including school, law enforcement and city officials, gathered Monday evening at the Santa Clarita Activities Center to discuss how a local school district could reinforce the safety of its students following the Saugus High School shooting. 

The meeting was one of two “community safety dialogues” the William S. Hart Union High School District hosted as part of its initiation “to reinforce our threat assessment policies and procedures,” said Mike Kuhlman, deputy superintendent of the district, via a message to parents. 

To help shape the district’s updated policies and procedures, the district partnered with consultants Patrick Prince, the associate vice provost and chief threat assessment officer for the University of Southern California; Joseph Wright, the director of security for Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska; and Ben Kallin, a threat assessment officer at USC. 

The three comprise the “safety and threat assessment expert panel,” which is expected to present a report to the district on safety measures that could be implemented. 

“We’re here to learn, to grow, to get better and where we have flaws, fix them; and where we have strengths, reinforce them,” said Prince.   

Wright reiterated that the report will not “look like some sanitized thing that some consultant would send to every city or every state.”

“People need to read this,” Wright said, “and say, ‘This sounds like us.’” 

The community safety dialogue Monday was an opportunity for the panel to gather direct feedback from the community on what the district can improve on under four categories: physical security, safety procedures, crisis communication and mental health/wellness. 

Attendees included Bryan Muehlberger, the father of 15-year-old Gracie Muehlberger, who was shot and killed during the Saugus High School shooting on Nov. 14. He and several others split into groups to discuss the four categories. 

Muehlberger mentioned that surveillance cameras at Saugus High School are not actively monitored, and he suggested, along with Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Detective Bill Velek, the possibility of implementing a security office for more active monitoring. 

Another group discussing safety procedures recommended more proactive ways to measure students instead of waiting for children to seek help. That could come in the form of a questionnaire, one attendee said. 

Feedback from Monday’s meeting and an upcoming community safety dialogue will help develop “a plan that’s realistic, sustainable and effective, which will ultimately be presented to the board (of trustees) later this spring,” said Kuhlman. 

The second public meeting is scheduled Tuesday, March 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Santa Clarita Activities Center, which is located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway.

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