Less than a year after the Saugus High School shooting claimed the lives of three teens, the William S. Hart Union High School District released a private contractor’s safety report about recommendations for the district.
The recommendations were broken down into four main areas: mental health and wellness; site security; policy and training; and communication.
Of the site security recommendations, the district’s partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was reaffirmed, the recommendations including the district providing school resource officers, much as it already does.
District officials declined to release the cost of the report or when it was authorized by the governing board when reached for comment Thursday.
The report was compiled by a team from Prince/Kallin Consultants, and involved the gathering of information from two community meetings, a review of studies and literature on the issue, and interviews with district staff.
During the town halls, parents and stakeholders asked for several things, namely: for a more robust communication strategy to be put into place that is layered across several different platforms; more connectivity to mental health supports outside of the district; parents made it clear that they want the district’s school resource officers to be as visible as possible; others asked for a consistent visitor-management protocol for all of the schools.
The recommendations also include improving visitor management systems with badging and identification mechanisms, enhancing the perimeter security with adequate fencing, better camera systems with live feeds, and bullet-resistant glass or glass covering for school windows.
In terms of mental health and wellness, which was heavily focused on during the presentation, it was recommended that the district establish a district threat assessment team that will be able to identify persons of concern and assess potential risk of violence. The team would also be put in charge of developing violence mitigation strategies.
A second team was also recommended. School care/student needs teams were suggested, which would be at school sites in order to provide at-risk youth with intervention resources.
Trained therapists and other behavior intervention programs were recommended to the district, as well.
For policy and training, a number of strategies and training were suggested for site staff that would help them recognize warning signs and teach them how to teach students proper safety and bullying-prevention tactics.
The district was also recommended to create a cybersecurity capability that would allow it to “monitor social media, screen for messages of concern and manage responses in coordination with local law enforcement,” the recommendation authored by Prince/Kallin Consultants reads.
District officials were also advised to obtain a communication platform that allows emergency communications to potentially impacted groups (students, family, staff), both site-specific and districtwide, to allow for ongoing communication, communication during an incident and post-incident communication.
Superintendent Mike Kuhlman noted that some of the recommendations were already in place, such as the school resource officers, or are in the process of being implemented. Other things were new programs, such as the shatterproof glass, but Kuhlman said the research indicates these are best practices informed by Prince/Kallin Consultants observing and seeing what’s going on at school sites.
“The district has done good things,” said Patrick Prince, who led the presentation. “This is not coming into an environment where there are gross deficiencies, where there are glaring inadequacies.”
However, ultimately, the best way to stop a school shooting is prevention, according to the report.
“I think that the kind of work that they do is helpful. The thing is, we had accomplished a lot of it before Saugus,” said board President Linda Storli. “But I think they did a great job, and it’s exactly what every school needs.”