District officials review safety protocols, invite community to safety discussion Aug. 31
The William S. Hart Union High School District gave a safety update to members of the public as the school year has just begun — and, in addition, the district announced a firearm detection canine unit that will be deployed each morning to one or more of the district’s school sites.
Ahead of the governing board meeting on Wednesday evening, the district shared with community members it would be introducing a firearm detection canine unit beginning Monday. The canine unit will be composed of a uniformed handler and a dog, which has been trained to detect firearms and gunpower, according to an email sent out by the district.
“We have partnered with 3DK9 Detection Services to provide this added layer of protection to our campuses,” district officials wrote in an e-mail to parents. “This agreement will employ canines trained to detect firearms and explosives, not narcotics.”
The canine until will be used to monitor student arrival in the morning, search student parking lots and lockers for firearms, and each school site will be visited 10-11 times throughout the school year on a random basis.
The district contracted this service as an additional layer of security in the Hart district.
“Families should not be alarmed to see these friendly canine units and their handlers’ interaction with our students in the coming weeks and months,” the district wrote in the email to parents. “The appearance of 3DK9 units on campus are not in response to any particular known threat.”
During the governing board meeting on Wednesday, Collyn Nielsen, assistant superintendent of human resources, and Kathy Hunter, assistant superintendent of student services, safety and wellness, gave a presentation on school safety.
“Kathy and I will take the board and our audience through the district’s safety website, which is a beneficial approach because so much universal, useful information can be found there,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen pulled up the district’s website and scrolled down to quick links, where anyone can open up a webpage to the district’s school safety plan. The plan outlines four main areas of priority for the district, which includes mental health and wellness, site security, communication and policy and training.
According to Nielsen, after the tragedy at Saugus High School in November 2019, the district contracted Prince/Kallin Consultants to conduct community meetings and research on best practices for school safety.
These practices were presented to the governing board in 2020.
“As a point of clarification, the 22 best practices they presented are not safety deficiencies they’ve done in the Hart district, but rather they are best practices that every school district should be striving for in the Hart district. In fact, many of these are already in place,” Nielsen said.
On the website, the district also includes PowerPoints and videos on previous safety presentations, and links to many of the district’s safety resources, he said.
Nielsen and Hunter said that in the student safety plan, under each of the four main areas of priority, the district lists information for best practices and then under each one they list the district’s progress.
For example, Nielsen described that experts recommend schools include “the creation of a threat assessment team.” Then under that best practice, the district explains its progress.
According to Nielsen and the student safety plan, the Hart district has had its threat assessment team in place since 2016. The team also meets at least every two weeks, and even more frequently if needed to discuss the school site situation.
As another example, Hunter discussed the priority area of communication.
“The second item, I, in this area is about a districtwide reporting mechanism for students, faculty, staff and the community regarding unmet student needs, which may impact student and district safety,” Hunter said.
In response to that, the district took its existing student tip lines, and rebranded them to be student care lines, according to Hunter.
“We have posters for our students in every single classroom and offices on our sites,” Hunter said. “We want to find those students who may be off their baseline and help provide them with the resources to get them back on track.”
Governing board members and community in attendance were thankful for the presentation by district administration.
However, governing board member Cherise Moore noted that it would be impactful and important to provide other opportunities to inform parents about the student safety plan in other languages.
“I want us to somehow make sure that there’s educational opportunities, again, because safety is so important for parents right now,” Moore said. “This is wonderful, but I fear that it’s not getting to as many folks as we can get it to.”
The governing board accepted the presentation and recommended district staff to provide translations of the student safety plan, as well as ensure people with physical impairments have access to the documents, too.
Joe Messina, governing board president, also reminded the public about the district’s safe schools discussion, which will take place on Aug. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the city of Santa Clarita’s Activities Center at 20800 Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita.