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In the aftermath of the April 13 trespassing incident at Canalino Elementary School, a conversation has arisen around maintaining a safe but not barricaded school campus.

In their investigation of the incident, deputies with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office were unable to to identify the two trespassers, according to a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. The case has been suspended pending further leads.

Since April, a few parents have continued to push for improved safety protocols and response in the Carpinteria Unified School District (CUSD). Several other parents, as well as the school district, contend the protocols in place are sufficient following the safety changes the district has already made in light of the incident.

What many can agree on, however, is that it is a nerve-racking time to be a parent, student, or school employee in the country. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 24 school shootings with injuries or deaths in the United States, according to EducationWeek, as well as a few false alarms in Santa Barbara schools over recent months.  

On April 13, two adult men trespassed onto the Canalino campus for several minutes before they were seen and confronted by a district employee. The two men told the employee that they were parents of a Canalino student. When told to exit the campus, the men fled, and the employee called 9-1-1. 

Superintendent Diana Rigby and Canalino Principal Jamie Persoon said the employee followed district safety protocols by confronting and questioning the men and then calling 9-1-1 once it was clear the men were lying about their identities. 

Persoon said the two trespassers had no visible weapons and were escorted at all times while on school property and that the incident did not call for a lockdown (“Hour Zero”) procedure. 

Some parents expressed concern about district safety protocols immediately following the incident and during the district’s April 25 school board meeting. They asked for a review of current safety protocols and criticized the district’s response to the incident — including, they said, a lack of communication between the administration and parents. 

“If all safety procedures were indeed adhered to during the intruder event, I am not left with confidence in the systems in place,” said Ingrid Bostrom, a Canalino parent and freelance photographer for the Indy, at the April 25 school board meeting. 

The Carpinteria Unified employees union, led by president and Canalino parent Jay Hotchner, has also made suggestions for contractual safety initiatives in the district, most recently reiterating those suggestions during the district’s May 9 board meeting. 

“It’s something that the union has been pushing for five years,” Hotchner told the Independent. “I mean, it is by the stroke of luck that nothing terrible has happened on that school site, because anybody could have walked on campus.” 

The union recommends practices such as district-wide CPR and first-aid training, standardized visitor registration and badging processes, and the creation of both school site safety committees and a district safety committee that meet monthly. 

He expressed worry about “when the rubber meets the road,” citing the April 13 incident, and how school site staff may respond — as in, whether they lock all classroom doors, notify the entire school of any trespassers, and call 9-1-1 immediately if necessary. “None of that happened” on April 13, he said. 

Canalino administration and the school district have maintained that all safety protocols were followed when the incident occurred and that they’ve already committed to some changes in response to safety concerns. 

Following the incident, they said, there will be better monitoring of the Canalino and District Office campuses, a reduction of the number of school gates unlocked during pick-up and drop-off hours, the installation of emergency push bars on all of Canalino’s gates, and added security cameras at all elementary schools.

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Justin Rowe, who just left his six-year role as vice president of the Parents for Canalino PTA group on May 17 to transition to the Parents for Carpinteria Middle School Board, said that he thinks the trespassing incident was handled appropriately and parents were notified in a timely manner. “It really does seem to be a minority that is dissatisfied,” he said, “but, you know, I can understand their concern. 

“I grew up in the San Fernando Valley just outside of Los Angeles, and my junior high school, right when I left, had a gang-related shooting outside where a student was killed,” Rowe shared. “That was in the late 1980s. They went to full metal detectors. Barbed wire. And to me, it’s a, I don’t know, it’s a kind of sad representation of a school that looks more like a fortress.”

Rowe said that Canalino locking their gates and decreasing the available school entry and exit points is enough. “I would hate to see our school turn into anything like a fortress for our kids,” he said. 

Superintendent Rigby told the Independent that CUSD schools develop school site safety plans with their site councils, which include parents and members of their faculties. In addition, she said, all CUSD employees are trained on safety protocols with the Hour Zero online training program, and they are expected to follow those protocols.

Hour Zero readiness reports were recently released by the district that confirm the status of Hour Zero training completion by staff at each school throughout the past school year. 

For most schools, including Canalino, training course completion ranged between 60 and 75 percent of staff. At Canalino, as of May 10, 68 percent of staff had completed Shelter-in-Place training, 74 percent completed Hold-and-Secure training, and 76 percent completed lockdown training. 

CUSD School Board President Jaime Diamond, who is also a parent of a student at Canalino, told parents at their April 25 meeting that they can meet and speak with boardmembers directly about their concerns. 

However, Superintendent Rigby and Diamond both told the Indy that, aside from Hotchner, they have not had any parent contact them directly with concerns about Canalino’s safety measures before or since the April 25 school board meeting. 

“On the contrary, we have received many emails supporting the efforts of the principal and district staff during the April 13 trespassing incident on the district property,” Rigby said. 

Diamond added that CUSD safety protocols are reviewed by each school site committee each year and as necessary throughout the year. 

“Additionally, the district leadership team meets weekly to discuss any safety incidents, response, and how we may improve,” she said. “Several improvements were identified and made within 24 hours of the trespassers, including suggestions from parents who offered productive feedback to the principal.” 

Diamond also shared a supportive email she received from a Canalino parent, who said that over the past five years as a parent at the school, the school administration had been “exceptionally responsive” to the parent’s concerns. 

“I have felt that my 2 young children are in the best and most capable hands every day,” the email reads. “In the aftermath of the trespassers at Canalino, I feel that the district and the administration handled it correctly: I truly do not want to make school a place of fear for our children.”


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