School resource officer Christina Marshall at Santa Barbara High School

Paul Wellman

School resource officer Christina Marshall at Santa Barbara High School

Connecticut Shootings Prompt School Safety Measures

But Will Federal Funding For More Equipment Make It To the South Coast?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
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At a joint meeting of the Santa Barbara school board and City Council two weeks ago, Mayor Helene Schneider asked Marlin Sumpter, assistant superintendent of pupil services, what sort of safety equipment he would like were funding not an issue. Video cameras, answered Sumpter, specifically to survey entrances, exits, restrooms, and parking lots.

On April 10, Representative Lois Capps introduced a bill that could provide schools a bit of help in buying such equipment. As described in a statement from Capps’s office, the School Safety Enhancement Act, or HR1470, would “reauthorize the Secure Our Schools Grant program at $40 million per year for 10 years. Federal grant funding would be matched 50/50 with state or local government funds and would be administered by the Office of Community Oriented Policing in the Department of Justice. The bill also establishes an interagency task force between the Departments of Justice and Education to develop a set of school safety guidelines in conjunction with parent, teacher and stakeholder input.”

Similar language was included in the gun violence bill that died an ignominious death on the Senate floor on April 17. And while lawmakers may not have the stomach to expand background checks, the limited goal of giving schools a hand in securing their campuses may garner a bit more support. The Secure Our Schools program, created in the wake of the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colorado, has been a popular program that received more applications than it could fund every year.

Whether any of that federal money makes its way to the South Coast is an open question. The Santa Barbara school district already has a $300 million wish list of repairs and improvements that includes such basic necessities as roofs. But facilities manager David Hetyonk said he would like to replace fencing, which would be covered under Capps’s bill along with items like lighting and reinforced doors. Because school architecture in coastal California takes advantage of the temperate climate, combining indoor and outdoor spaces, campuses are difficult to confine. But the district is attempting to narrow entry points via fencing.

And Hetyonk is already in the midst of changing knobs on classroom doors so they can all be locked from the inside. The last elementary school — Roosevelt — is almost complete. Locks at the secondary schools will be swapped as well.

These retrofits are a direct response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 students and six teachers were murdered by a lone gunman. Since then, the Santa Barbara Police Department has conducted walkthroughs of all the schools in the city and updated the campus maps that the police keep in all cruisers. Visitors to schools must now wear badges, and there are noticeably more signs on campuses directing them to check in at the office.

While police officers and school officials admit that a motivated evildoer is probably not going to stop by the front office to check in, SBPD Lieutenant Brent Mandrell, who has coordinated with the schools, said, “any security measure, no matter how small it is, it’s always better to do something rather than nothing.”

Mandrell has advised the schools that in a worst-case scenario, staff should think of options in terms of “run, hide, or fight.” Whereas school protocol has historically suggested teachers lock their doors and shelter in place, that might not be the safest scenario.

If a gunman makes it onto campus, said Mandrell, “each situation is different. There are no set rules of black and white. You may have the opportunity to run away, so that may be the best option. You might have the opportunity to lock the room. If someone is in your classroom … you might make the decision to fight.”

School resource officer Christina Marshall, the thin blue line between city schools and criminal activity, agreed with Sumpter that cameras on campus “would be amazing.” But at the top of her shopping list would simply be more classroom teachers and campus security staff. A higher adult-to-student ratio would not only improve education but also on-campus behavior, she said. Meanwhile, calls-for-service records made available by the police reveal that serious incidents at schools are few and far in between. There were reports of shots fired at Santa Barbara High School (SBHS) in August and a call for “weapon brandishing” in September 2010. This past fall, Marshall also arrested a former SBHS student who was on campus with drugs and a knife, challenging staff to fight. As far as crime goes, though, she deals with theft and drugs much more than violence.

Based at SBHS, Marshall serves all the city’s secondary schools. The Sheriff’s Department provides two deputies, George Hedricks and Dan Nelson, who work at Dos Pueblos and San Marcos High Schools, respectively, while splitting duty at Goleta Valley Junior High. They told The Santa Barbara Independent that their day-to-day functions have not changed since the Newtown shootings. While the Connecticut tragedy has raised awareness about school safety, rekindled communication between schools and law enforcement, and increased vigilance, students likely face more imminent danger on their way to school than they do on school grounds. At the same meeting where Sumpter updated the City Council on school safety measures, Browning Allen, city transportation manager, updated the school board on some of the treacherous crosswalks on the Eastside.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Q: So how do you stop one who invades your campus and starts firing away?

A: With a gun-whether it's a cop, security guard, or armed civilian. Cameras alone won't stop a crazed gun-toter from shooting people.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 2:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Right On Target, Billclausen.
"With an Armed person the level of Force used is only one level higher than the Threat". A security officer's primary job is to Observe and Report, a Force Protection Officer is to Observe, Report and Protect but not to Arrest. Camera's are excellent observant tools but lack the ability to repel a hostile invasion of a Threat.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 7:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe instead of always sucking after federal funds, our City could, oh, I don't know, maybe use its own resources? Redirect from things like unnecessary traffic "planning" personnel to guarding the public safety? Eliminate a few admin positions? Or even focus existing police resources away from tasing innocent people and ganging up on non-existent gun-carrying ghosts and instead patrol schools? But then, the next thing we hear would be the screams of an innocent schoolchild being tased, no doubt, for mouthing off to an all-powerful police officer.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 8:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Kudos to the school system for taking steps towards a good surveillance system that is coordinated with local law enforcement. That is the best use of the limited resources available.

Gun deaths in the US are like a cancer in our society. As with many cancers, once it’s in your system, you never can be sure if or where it will pop up next, or in what form. The best defense against cancer is early detection – the earlier it’s detected, the better your odds of beating it, usually with chemo and radiation. That’s how good safety systems work - they use early detection and training so appropriate counter measures can be brought into play effectively and quickly. Setting aside the fact that the having armed guards on hand didn’t help in the Colombine shootings, schools can’t afford dedicated on-site armed security guards. But as the article points out, we have a local police force that is trained and ready to deal with an armed threat at schools and, presumably, at other public places.

Those that think more guns will result in a safer environment are blind the fact that no matter how good the training, accidents happen. An increase in the density of guns in society is likely to increase the rate of accidents. Increased vigilance, combined with training and preparation, is a better bet.

hodgmo (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 9:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Video cameras in the bathrooms? Really?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sure. Just like the one I secretly put in your bathroom KV; what's the big deal? I can safely state that your bathroom habits are not endangering the rest of us...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 1:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That's a relief.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 2:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

a view from another room:

hodgmo (anonymous profile)
May 2, 2013 at 10:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And remember, parents----There is a nifty new gun company targeting YOUR kids into having YOU buy them their very first gun! They come in GIRL PINK and BLUE BOY! Neato, eh!

Making sure our children are properly armed and ready for the brave new world the NRA would love to see dawn on America is of paramount importance, so be sure to remain quiet and don't cause trouble for our law-manipulating guntards who really believe that only a FULLY ARMED citizenry can provide for its own common good and be ready to repel the coming gubment invasion that wants to shackle us to their nefarious will. Because we all know that if the world's best-armed and most powerful government in the world (ours) comes a-knockin', we'll be able to prevent that with our popguns, right kiddies?

Draxor (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sure. Just like the one I secretly put in your bathroom KV; what's the big deal? I can safely state that your bathroom habits are not endangering the rest of us...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 1:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That's a relief.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 1, 2013 at 2:41 p.m

"Plop plop fizz fizz".

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2013 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There is one VERY unhappy little man in a toy boat...

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2013 at 3:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

SBCC is contemplating hiring a full time SB Police officer for the campus patrol at a cost of $250,000/ year.
cha ching!

easternpacific (anonymous profile)
May 6, 2013 at 9:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

They just want to look like they're doing something instead of actually addressing issues like ADMISSIONS! Guess we can't lower tuition or fees now, gotta overreact and bring some guns onto campus.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 6, 2013 at 3:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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