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Culver City School Safety: Campus Access, Emergency Preparedness and More

As part of an ongoing dialogue with Culver City parents, Superintendent Dave LaRose is fielding specific questions about safety in the district's schools.

The following questions were submitted by local parents to the Culver City Unified School District. The responses are from CCUSD Superintendent Tom LaRose:

Are we adequately controlling access to our campuses?

This is one of the most common areas of concern and challenges us to balance the expectation of secure campuses with the goal of family and community engagement and shared facility use. We are assertive in addressing campus access in the following ways:

All campuses have gated perimeters that restrict access to our campuses

Once school has started, the perimeter and exterior access points are closed and access is limited to the main office/entry point at our schools

All schools have structured sign-in and sign out procedures for visitors and guests to ensure that staff and student have a visual indicator (badges and name tags) that authorizes presence on campus

All schools have lock down procedures and practice lock down drills with staff and students

Monitoring and Supervising School Campus is key to controlled access:

  • All campuses have video surveillance, including offices area/main entry points. This video feed is monitored by security staff as well as Culver City Police Department. In fact, our School Resource Officer has access to the videos on his phone, computer and in his police vehicle
  • We have a Security Team at the Middle and High School, staffing our campus throughout the day
  • We have a School Resource Officer who is on our campuses every day
  • CC Police Department are committed to regular, daily patrol of school grounds and perimeters

In addition, we have been very intentional about assessing and evaluating our campuses, with an emphasis on campus access:

  • Campus walk-throughs with Security, Facilities, Business Services, Culver City Police Department, school principals and site parents. The review assesses gates, access points; reviews needs, and develops plans of action.

Communication is key to limiting campus access:

  • All schools have radio communication resources and several have received additional radios in recent weeks.

What about access points after school? With so many schools offering many after school activities, access seems to be compromised?

Our schools do offer many great after school opportunities and our preparation must be as intentional after school as it is during school. Certainly, this is a challenge with parent programs, partnerships and clubs, and our space being accessed by our various parent groups. Again the key is close monitoring, communication systems, adequate supervision, and limiting access points. All of our schools have safety plans and the response plans remain the same for after school. We are taking steps to assess our after school response plans to ensure that we are equally intentional about our after school planning and preparation. From locking gates after dismissal and limiting entrance/arrival to one point to sharing of radios and enlisting partners to serve as campus monitors, there are several options to enhance after school safety.

How does the district plan for emergencies?

  • All of our schools have safety plans and conduct practice drills regularly (including Fire Drills, Earthquake Drills and Lock Downs.
  • We have a visible Security Team and Manager who are trained and strategically assigned responsibilities in order to prevent incidents before they occur and respond immediately when safety is jeopardized
  • We have a full-time School Resource Officer on our campuses daily (He is a Culver City Police Officer)
  • Our Admin Council (Directors and Principals and District Office Administration) work together to align drills, enhance communication and plan/participate in training.
  • Partner with Culver City Police Department and CC Fire
  • Strategies exist at all schools to limit access during the school day, required sign-in and sign-out procedures and structure protocols for visitor access
  • Radio and video camera resources on all campuses

 Are we prepared for a rapid response to an emergency?

In addition to the daily resources and planning noted above, our strong relationship with the Culver City Police Department is essential to our response planning. The CC Police Department has average response times less than 3 minutes and with patrol commitments and our SRO, we could expect an even more timely response to a school emergency.

 What about automatic locking doors or panic buttons? Would that help?

We are prepared to make whatever investments are necessary to make our schools even safer. This is evident in our immediate investments of additional radios and video cameras. Our campus assessments are being conducted to ensure that any investments meet a campus need and will actually make the campus safer. We are fortunate to have a great partnership with the Culver City Police Department and their counsel in these matters continues to be invaluable.

Have there been any additional steps taken recently to enhance safety?

  • The addition of cameras at several school sites to ensure for improved office surveillance
  • Additional radios to improve communication at several sites
  • Several meeting with Culver City Police to deepen our partnership - including additional commitments to daily presence and patrols, analysis of response times, etc.
  • Assertive action at school sites - team meetings to review procedures, meetings with staff and parents to solicit feedback and address concerns; enhanced lock down drills, purposeful communication with staff, students, families; affirmation of check-in procedures, visitor sign-in and staff badges
  • Increased communication and promotion of district preparedness, resources and commitments (via web, auto calls, publications, etc.)

What about future planning? What else can be done?

  • Site Access/Safety assessment/walk-through exercises with law enforcement and our facility team. We are reviewing/evaluating campus needs and are prepared to make immediate investments
  • We are planning a coordinated "active shooter" drill with Culver City Police Department to take place at our high school during Spring Break
  • We are evaluating and indentifying options for Enhanced "First Responder" training for all site/department leaders (partnering again with Culver City Police Department)
  • Exploring various options and partnerships to provide mentoring for students in need of adult support
  • Engaging partners to serve as campus monitors through structured recruitment and training (for example "Watch D.O.G.S." (Dads of Great Students) to provide for increased adult presence, positive role models and additional supervision during morning arrival, dismissal, after school programs, etc.)

There is a great deal of talk about mental health and school safety. What are we doing to protect the social and emotional well being of students?

Caring for the whole child is essential to providing kind and safe learning environments. Teaching, modeling, and expecting positive, respectful behavior is evident in our policies, practices and programs. Establishing high expectations and accountability is critical to safety, as is positive, timely, caring and compassionate intervention and support for students who struggle socially or emotionally. It is crucial that we not jump to labeling children - unfairly "connecting the dots" between student needs and student violence. The key is a positive, responsive school culture with rich, varied resources for timely support. CCUSD is fortunate to have strong support systems for our student's healthy growth and development.

  • District Wide Anti Bullying Curriculum and Training (for Administrators, Teachers, Instructional Specialists, Playground Aides, Security)
  • District Wide Anti Bullying Task Force made up of parents, district and school leaders
  • Site Specific anti-bullying committees
  • Dedicated Guidance Counselors at the Middle School and High School providing social, emotional and academic support and intervention
  • Medical and Mental Health Clinic On Campus at CC MS/HS: This great resource provides professional 1-1 counseling, group counseling and family support
  • District Behavioral Specialists: Work with Students and Training Staff in Positive Behavior Systems
  • School Based Student Study Teams: Intervention Teams (made up of teachers, school psychologists, administration, special education staff) for Students who are struggling in school (academically, socially, emotionally and behaviorally)

What if I have questions or concerns; or if I have an idea or interest in helping?

As always, open and timely communication is at the core of positive and trusting relationships. With the topic of school safety, this trust is absolutely essential. Whenever you have a question, are worried about your child, feel uneasy about an issue or practice, or need some support, contact us immediately. Your "voice" is needed in order for us to attain the goal we all share - success for EVERY child without exception. We want to hear from you and know that we can do our best work with respects to teaching and learning if we are partners in this special, unique, challenging and deeply rewarding journey. Please contact your child's teacher, the school principal and/or me directly with any question/issue or topic. Please call me directly at 310-842-4222 or email me at davidlarose@ccusd.org

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Laura Jane kessner January 23, 2013 at 03:02 PM
We will be continuing this conversation with Superintendent La Rose tonight, 1/23/13 at 7:00 pm at Vet's Auditorium. Come and submit your safety related questions: http://unitedparentsculvercity.com/safety/

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