Administration maintains focus on student safety


Claire Wittkop and Keegan Thomas

School safety protocols, precautions and regulations are always developing and changing with the times. With the new year upon us, LBUSD continues to evaluate its best practices. 

The high school has implemented some new safety precautions, including new locks on the outside gates and messages through the broadcasting systems. The most noteworthy addition to district safety, however, is Officer Fred Yielding, Laguna’s second Student Resource Officer to serve alongside SRO Cornelius Ashton. Although their main goal is to keep the four campuses safe and maintain the wellbeing of students, they have also made efforts to train district staff for emergency situations. On Jan. 6, they conducted a presentation in the Artists Theatre.

“One thing that we talked about is what happens after an active shooter incident, or critical incident happens on campus. When law enforcement arrives, how long will students and teachers have to wait in classrooms? How will students be turned over to their parents? There are so many working parts that go into it,” said SRO Ashton. 

On Jan. 15, a lockdown drill was held on the high school campus as 3rd-period teachers directed students to hide quietly in their classrooms, lights out, doors locked, out of the view of any intruder trying to force entry.

“Lockdown drills are designed to be a proactive step to prepare and inform students and staff. They are done to help keep everyone as safe as possible by providing them situational scenarios and information on how to proceed in an emergency situation. Situational awareness is critical in any circumstance, and by practicing drills, people become more aware of things to look for and understand the importance of following procedures. The goal is to acclimate students and staff to a procedure that they will be able to follow quickly, effectively and safely while trying to ease anxiety or fear of not knowing what to do,” said Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria.

Some teachers and students used the time before and after the lockdown drill to discuss any safety-related concerns they might have had. 

“Mrs. Hanson talked to us about the lockdown drill beforehand and told us always to stay silent until we are in the clear. She also talked about how important it is to take these drills seriously because it isn’t just important for our safety, but for everyone’s safety,” said sophomore Mia Lepage.

Although escaping is not part of the lockdown drill, if there is a nearby exit point, students may choose to run off campus to a safe location rather than search for an inside spot to hide.

“All our perimeter gates have a latching mechanism on them now. They’re difficult to access from the outside, but you can push the lever to get out if needed,” said LBHS Principal Dr. Jason Allemann. 

During staff meetings and presentations by the LBPD, school personnel are trained in active-shooter, CPR and Stop-the-Bleed instruction. The district is also looking into offering a new LBUSD only Community Emergency Response Team class. 

“We have begun doing some refresher training. Last year, they did a reorientation for current staff. As things change, we’ve realized that there are topics that we need to get in front of people with. Employees always need to hear things again. It’s ongoing as the needs arise,” said Director of Human Resources Michael Conlon. 

Although training occurs regularly, some teachers and staff who missed opportunities have expressed the desire for dates that don’t fall on weekends or over vacations. 

“I think it would be very helpful to have mandatory teacher safety training before each school year so everyone is on the same page,” said multimedia design teacher and coach Scott Wittkop.

Among those responsible for student safety are substitute teachers.  

“Substitute teachers have zero safety training, but we do have information in the subfolder that’s very thorough that we are all supposed to read. I think it would be a really good idea for subs to have safety training,” said substitute teacher Colleen Shuelke. “Even though I work here every day and am familiar with the campus, I don’t know as much as the people who have had the training. Some substitute teachers are only here once, and if there was an emergency, it might be hard for them.”

Training for everyone on campus, including teachers, students, coaches, substitutes and support staff members, is a crucial part of keeping the school safe and prepared for all emergencies. 

“I do think teachers are well trained, but preparation is never time wasted. There’s always an opportunity to grow, to become stronger. I firmly believe in regards to school safety, the more you practice it, the more it is ingrained inside of you to move and not freeze when a situation happens,” said SRO Ashton.