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MDUSD Superintendent gives guidance to staff in wake of Connecticut shooting

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 12:55 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

I have obtained a copy of a message that was reportedly sent from Mt. Diablo Superintendent Steven Lawrence to district staff on Friday afternoon, in light of the Connecticut shooting. I am posting it below, so district parents can see what was directed, encouraged and/or suggested to staff regarding school safety.

“Subject: Connecticut Tragedy

Good afternoon,

This morning a shooting happened at an elementary school in Connecticut. At this time, information about this incident is still developing, so we do not have all of the factual information. However, we do know that along with the recent shooting in the mall in Oregon, people’s sense of concern is very high. First, I would like to thank you for all of the things that you do on a daily basis to ensure that students are safe. Second, in order to assure parents that we are doing everything that we can to ensure their children’s safety, I am encouraging site administrators, teachers and support staff members to continue to implement the following practices:

1. During times of tragedy it is paramount that site administrators and other staff members are highly visible in order to reassure parents that our schools are safe places.

2. Ensure that any visitor on campus either has a MDUSD badge or a visitor badge which indicates they checked in at the front office. For parents who regularly volunteer, many sites have badges that they pick up and drop off in the front office that indicates they are a parent volunteer. If your site does not have volunteer badges, please create them.

3. To help create a positive classroom environment and help with overall school safety, we encourage teachers to greet students at their classroom door during the passing time prior to shutting and locking the door. When students are in the classroom, teachers should keep their doors shut and locked except during passing time.

4. Principals should regularly review the school site safety plan and school safety procedures with the entire staff throughout the school year. Also, parents should be invited to attend School Site Council meetings where the safety plans are reviewed and updated.

5. Some of our schools have volunteer parent patrols that circulate throughout the campus during instructional time as well as passing periods, brunch, and lunch. Best practice for parent patrols is that parents patrol in pairs and be given a walkie-talkie to communicate with administrators, campus/noon-duty supervisors, and front office staff.

6. Taking accurate student attendance each period is critical to assure that we know where their children are at all times. Also, accurate data of students who leave campus early is critical especially in cases where students live in multiple households.

7. In times of an emergency it is equally important to know the whereabouts of school staff members. Therefore, any time a school site staff member needs to leave campus during the instructional day, it is critical that he/she informs someone in the front office.

8. In case you need guidance on how to help your students and their parents cope with the tragedy of the Connecticut massacre, CDE has some guidance online at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/cp/tragedy.asp

For a majority of our school sites, the above list is just a reminder of all the things you already do to ensure our students are safe and accounted for at all times. A district-wide phone call will go out this afternoon to all parents informing them of the tragedy and the steps our schools are taking to ensure their child’s safety. Again, thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Steven Lawrence

Superintendent”

Many of the items listed do not appear to be required, but instead to be suggestions.

Also, I have heard that not all schools have doors that can be locked from the inside with a key.

Do you believe the school board should establish clear policies regarding safety protocols?

DEC. 19 UPDATE: In response to an email, Superintendent Steven Lawrence has clarified some of the issues raised in his initial memo above. Here are my questions, followed by his responses:

“Q. There seems to be some question about whether teachers are required to lock their doors or whether this is merely a suggestion. Are classroom doors required to be closed and locked during class time?

A. There is no board policy or administrative regulation that requires doors to be locked. My statement was a suggestion and not a mandate. Given recent events, we think it is prudent for teachers to operate out of an abundance of caution. Please note that many teachers already shut and lock their doors.

Q. I have heard that some schools do not have “Columbine locks,” which can be locked from the inside of the classroom using a key. How many schools and classrooms have these locks and how many do not? Is there a plan to install these types of locks on all classroom doors as part of the Measure C upgrades? If so, what is the timeline for competing this? If not, why not?

A. The 2002 Measure C Program did not include district-wide or wholesale installation of ‘Columbine’ type locking hardware. Rather, it included a classification called ‘ADA Priority 1′ items which referred to those high priority items identified in the Consent Decree/ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the District’s Transition Plan. With respect to door hardware, the 2002 Plan called for the retrofitting of no less than 50% of existing non-compliant door hardware with ADA compliant hardware. In selecting that compliant hardware, we elected to use a ‘Columbine’ type door hardware that could be locked down from the interior of the classroom. While we endeavored to expand the percentage of door hardware actually retrofitted as we progressed through the five year Measure C program, there still are at least 43 sites which have not been fully retrofitted with ‘Columbine’ type devices.

Recognizing the number of doors left to be retrofitted (post-completion of the 2002 Measure C Program), the remaining doors were identified and included in our 2010 Measure C Master Plan and were originally scheduled to be addressed in the ‘Modernization’ phase of the 2010 Measure C Program. Because this particular program element was scheduled to be implemented beginning next year and phased over several years, I have asked Pete Pedersen to dedicate his efforts to installing the locking hardware retrofit to accomplish as soon as possible. To this end, I have scheduled a meeting scheduled this week with staff to discuss and draft an action plan.”

“Q. I have heard that the safety plans for most schools are not posted online. Where can parents can review them?

A. The plans are available at the school site.”

I have a copy of the complete MDUSD “2010 Facilities Master Plan Update/Proposed Bond Program Profile: 2010 Facilities Improvement Plan,” which has never been posted online. Before the Measure C election, Pete Pedersen said Superintendent Steven Lawrence told him it was too big to post. I was urging the district to post it in the interest of transparency, since it includes the complete list of projects, as well as costs, for every school in the district. Now that Brian Lawrence has weighed in about the ease of posting thick documents online, it appears the district can’t use that as an excuse anymore.

According to the document, the district planned to spend $8.14 million on a “security system,” about $775,680 on “door hardware,” $773,500 on exterior doors and $242,558 on fencing replacement. Also according to the document, “door hardware” is described as: “Remove and replace all door hardware including closer with ‘Columbine’ style devices and/or approved panic system,” at a cost of $1,010 per item.

Here is a list of schools slated to get this door hardware, along with the quantity, according to the report:

Ayers Elem.: 6
Bel Air Elem.: 2
Cambridge Elem.: 35
CPHS: 55
Dent: 21
Diablo View MS: 17
El Dorado MS: 1
El Monte Elem: 16
Fair Oaks Elem: 50
Foothill MS: 1
Glenbrook MS: 24
Gregory Gardens Elem: 2
Hidden Valley Elem: 12
Highlands Elem: 17
Holbrook Elem: 4
Loma Vista Adult Center: 2
Meadow Homes Elem: 44
Monte Gardens Elem: 10
Mountain View Elem: 6
Mt. Diablo Elem: 16
Mt. Diablo HS: 29
Northgate HS: 7
Olympic HS: 15
Pine Hollow MS: 21
Pleasant Hill MS: 24
Pleasant Hill Elem: 2
Rio Vista Elem: 40
Riverview MS: 11
Sequoia Elem: 11
Sequoia MS: 20
Shadelands Center: 10
Shore Acres Elem: 50
Silverwood Elem: 6
Strandwood Elem: 4
Sun Terrace Elem: 16
Sunrise School: 1
Valhalla Elem: 3
Valley View MS: 18
Walnut Acres Elem: 23
Westwood Elem: 13
Willow Creek Center: 10
Wren Ave. Elem: 21
Ygnacio Valley Elem: 72

This means that as of about two years ago, more than 768 classroom or office doors throughout the school district may not have been lockable from the inside with a key.

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  • Doctor J

    The practice of protecting schools using only outdoor locks was put to a full stop on July 1, 2011 by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (District 56) and Senator Gloria Romero (District 24) by making it a law that new schools have to use locks inside the doors at entrances and at classrooms and offices that have 5 or more people inside. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_0201-0250/ab_211_bill_20100929_chaptered.pdf

  • Doctor J

    From the State Archtect: http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/dsa/bulletins/BU_11-05_rev07-13-12.pdf

    My sources are saying that SASS is telling them that Supt Lawrence said his statement about keeping doors locked is not a “directive” but a recommendation of “best practices”. Not sure why its not a directive.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is what Lawrence wrote (emphasis added in CAPS by me):

    “To help create a positive classroom environment and help with overall school safety, we ENCOURAGE teachers to greet students at their classroom door during the passing time prior to shutting and LOCKING the door. When students are in the classroom, teachers SHOULD keep their doors shut and LOCKED except during passing time.”

    In the first sentence, it’s unclear whether the word “encourage” refers only to greeting students at the door or also applies to shutting and locking the door. In the second sentence, the word “should” is vague and unclear. Some people could interpret it as a suggestion, while others could interpret it as a directive. The dictionary defines “should” as “shall,” as in an obligation.

  • Doctor J

    #4 Steven Lawrence says parents “should be invited” — actually they “must be invited” since parents of pupils are mandatory on the School Site Committee and School Planning Committee [Ed. Code 52852] : Ed. Code Section 32288 requires that each schoolsite hold a public meeting at the school site and must notify the following persons of the meeting.
    Local Mayor
    Local school employee organization
    Rep from Parent organization, i.e. PTA
    Rep from each Teacher organization
    Rep from Student Body Government
    All persons who wish to be notified
    School Site Council and/or School Safety Planning
    Committee
    Rep from local churches
    Local civic leaders
    Local business organizations
    Note: Do you really think MDUSD schools are doing this ? Again, a powerpoint on School Safety Plans http://www.calprima.org/cal/uploads/CSSP.pdf

  • Doctor J

    The MDUSD “rubric” for School Safety Plans is outdated and incorrect. Ed Code 52852 REQUIRES “parents of pupils attending the school” be included. However, the outdated “District Rubric” does NOT include the parents. See #1 Planning Committee Rubric does NOT include parents as “required” members. They are. See #10 Letter indicates that it does not include others who have requested to be notified of public hearing — that’s required. Where are the minutes of the public meeting ? Here is link to MDUSD “Rubric”.
    http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/2f10e418-4a65-42f6-aaf8-019c5e1a4d5f.pdf

  • Theresa Harrington

    School Resource Officers are trained to protect campuses from armed assailants, but not all schools have them: http://www.nasro.org/content/nasro%E2%80%99s-school-safety-law-database

  • Theresa Harrington

    CalSTRS plans to sell investments related to gun manufacturing: http://www.calstrs.com/Newsroom/2012/news121812.aspx

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s the statement issued by State Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg: http://sd06.senate.ca.gov/news/2012-12-14-steinberg-statement-newton-ct-school-shooting

    It states, in part: “It’s incumbent upon us to ask the questions that need answers, examine the circumstances, and to address these issues with whatever steps we can take to better protect our families and our schools.”

    Here’s information about school safety from the National School Boards Association: http://schoolboardnews.nsba.org/2012/12/school-security-articles-available-at-american-school-board-journal/

    Here are resources to assist families in dealing with school violence from the National PTA: http://www.pta.org/schoolviolence

  • g

    Yes, earthquakes and tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes and floods kill massive numbers, especially in dense, poor and poorly prepared population areas.

    Our schools (this district and many others) are located on or very near 50-100 year flood zones and major earthquake faults. Some are on or very near major gas distribution lines and many are probably just a spark away from disaster caused by very old internal electrical conduit systems.

    We generally train intensively to fight the disasters of nature both in the workplace and schools. We know that nature sometimes wins.

    However this is here and now. For most of us this is the age of instant gratification, instant information and the resources and technology to to wreak human havoc.

    Worse yet, we seem to be in an age of rampant rage compounded by untreated mental instability and compounded yet again by the instruments intended to be entertainment that have become instruments of how, why, when and where to wreak “the best, most notorious yet” human havoc.

    Too frequently both psychological and medicinal treatments for one ailment merely exacerbate another worse ailment, but ‘They’ tell us “The incidence is very low.”

    We need to train for “The incidence (that) is very low.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is the President’s statement: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/14/statement-president-school-shooting-newtown-ct?utm_source=email190&utm_medium=text4&utm_campaign=statement

    He says, in part: “…we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics…”

    And here is the Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: http://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/USED-623d70

    He says, in part: “…our thanks go out to every teacher, staff member, and first responder who cared for, comforted, and protected children from harm, often at risk to themselves….”

  • Doctor J

    Should MDUSD redirect Measure C bond money to increase security at schools ? Newport Beach and Costa Mesa considering: more fences around school buildings, reduce the number of entrances to each school, install security cameras and take other security measures. http://www.ocregister.com/news/school-381063-security-schools.html

  • Theresa Harrington

    I sent an email yesterday to Superintendent Steven Lawrence, copying Pete Pedersen, with the following questions:

    1. Are classroom doors required to be closed and locked during class time?

    2. How many schools and classrooms have Columbine locks (which can be locked from inside the classroom with a key) and how many do not? Is there a plan to install these types of locks on all classroom doors as part of the Measure C upgrades? If so, what is the timeline for competing this? If not, why not?

    3. I have heard that the safety plans for most schools are not posted online. Where can parents can review them?

    So far, I have received no response.

    MDHS is surrounded by fences and locked gates, but it is still possible for anyone to enter the campus at the entrance. I have heard that not all classrooms at this school have Columbine locks.

    Sequoia MS and many other schools in the district have many entrance points and are not fenced. The daycare center between Sequoia MS and Sequoia Elementary is fenced, preventing small children from wandering away.

    When all of the hubub was going on at Sun Terrace earlier last year, I heard that four kindergartners wandered off for a short time.

  • Anon

    A somewhat related issue-note that Newport-Mesa has clearly articulated feeder patterns http://web.nmusd.us/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1222629286587 Costa Mesa and Corona Del Mar high schools share their campus with middle schools, presumably to save costs including security costs http://cmhs.nmusd.us

    The Times reports that Brentwood is considering boundary changes http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_22210242/liberty-union-board-mulls-change-attendance-boundaries? MDUSD should have considered changes during the School Closure process when the reports showed huge disparities in enrollment. It’s not too late for MDUSD’s new board to look at school boundaries.

    Steve Lawrence is predicting $30 million cuts over the next 3 years depending on the governor’s budget proposal. Time to work with the new board to save costs!

  • Doctor J

    Measure C Ballot language included “safety” twice ! “To support . . .saftey for local students” and “improving safety”.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#12 Parents AND “any member of the public” are entitled to review the school’s safety plan — just ask — it must be “readily available”. If someone is denied, immediately file a “Uniform Complaint”. Both Board Policy AND state law require it. My post from yesterday lost in the plethora of posts: Board Policy 0450 says, among other things, “The principal or designee shall ensure that an updated file of all safety-related plans and materials is readily available for inspection by the public. (Education Code 35294.2)”

  • Theresa Harrington

    It may be time for the district to again float the idea of combining Oak Grove MS and YVHS onto one campus, since I believe both schools have declining enrollment and many students from Oak Grove leave on NCLB transfers. Also, the board recently approved a change that automatically directs most Pleasant Hill/Walnut Creek residents who used to live in a “gray area” where they could choose either CPHS or YVHS to now go to CPHS unless they request a transfer.

    Speaking of YVHS: 5 p.m. Friday is the deadline for public comments on the proposed field upgrades: http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Documents/yvhs-field-lighting-project-notice-of-preparation-for-eir.pdf

    Here is the initial study: http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Documents/yvhs-field-lighting-project-initial-study-november-2012.pdf

  • Doctor J

    @TH#12 Stop by the closest school, and walk in as a member of the public and ask to review the safety plan. You will quickly find out if they really have one ! Peruse it and you will see if it is really compliant.

  • g

    There is a current RFQ on the Measure C site asking for lead info for “Intrusion Systems” at all 55 sites. Judging by the dates on it, it seems it went out just days before Connecticut, but I don’t recall seeing it there when I last looked about a week ago.

    I have never seen or heard anything on the news about the (at least) two break-ins at Holbrook. I wonder how much Pedersen Inc lost?

    Of course no one has bothered to publish any BOC Minutes of meetings since February, so we don’t know if any losses have been reported or if the new intrusion systems will help secure the campuses during school hours, or even when they are scheduled for installation.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Speaking of losses, I decided to ask the CPD about rumors I’ve been hearing regarding a break-in at Dent. Here’s the official report from CPD:

    “On Saturday, December 1, 2012, at about 6:30 AM a CPD Officer responded to the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Offices at 1936 Carlotta Dr. regarding a burglary report. The Officer established that during the nighttime or early morning hours, unknown suspect(s) broke out an exterior window to gain access into one of the offices. Once inside, the suspect(s) stole computer equipment from the office. The scene was processed for latent fingerprints and the case is still under investigation.”

    I’ll ask about the Holbrook burglaries also.

    And regarding Measure C expenditures, it’s time the district posted the complete MDUSD “2010 Facilities Master Plan Update/Proposed Bond Program Profile: 2010 Facilities Improvement Plan” online. Before the Measure C election, Pete Pedersen said Superintendent Steven Lawrence told him it was too big to post. I was urging the district to post it in the interest of transparency, since it includes the complete list of projects, as well as costs, for every school in the district. Now that Brian Lawrence has weighed in about the ease of posting thick documents online, it appears the district can’t use that as an excuse anymore.

    According to the document, the district planned to spend $8.14 million on a “security system,” about $775,680 on “door hardware,” $773,500 on exterior doors and $242,558 on fencing replacement. Perhaps the board should request a report on these items to find out where they were planned and whether they have been completed yet. Also according to the document, “door hardware” is described as: “Remove and replace all door hardware including closer with ‘Columbine’ style devices and/or approved panic system,” at a cost of $1,010 per item.

    Here is a list of schools slated to get this door hardware, along with the quantity, according to the report:

    Ayers Elem.: 6
    Bel Air Elem.: 2
    Cambridge Elem.: 35
    CPHS: 55
    Dent: 21
    DVMS: 17
    EDMS: 1
    El Monte Elem: 16
    Fair Oaks Elem: 50
    Foothill MS: 1
    Glenbrook MS: 24
    Gregory Gardens Elem: 2
    Hidden Valley Elem: 12
    Highlands Elem: 17
    Holbrook Elem: 4
    Loma Vista Adult Center: 2
    Meadow Homes Elem: 44
    Monte Gardens Elem: 10
    Mountain View Elem: 6
    Mt. Diablo Elem: 16
    MDHS: 29
    Northgate HS: 7
    Olympic HS: 15
    Pine Hollow MS: 21
    Pleasant Hill MS: 24
    Pleasant Hill Elem: 2
    Rio Vista Elem: 40
    Riverview MS: 11
    Sequoia Elem: 11
    Sequoia MS: 20
    Shadelands Center: 10
    Shore Acres Elem: 50
    Silverwood Elem: 6
    Strandwood Elem: 4
    Sun Terrace Elem: 16
    Sunrise School: 1
    Valhalla Elem: 3
    Valley View MS: 18
    Walnut Acres Elem: 23
    Westwood Elem: 13
    Willow Creek Center: 10
    Wren Avenue Elem: 21
    Ygnacio Valley Elem: 72

    This means that as of about two years ago, 768 classroom or office doors throughout the school district may not have been lockable from the inside with a key. In the district’s rush to install solar panels at every site, did it put these door locks on the back burner?

  • Theresa Harrington

    The American Federation of School Administrators is calling on the President to establish a Task Force on School Safety: http://www.afsaadmin.org/

  • Theresa Harrington

    Please note that I have added a Dec. 19 update to this blog post, which includes a Q&A with the superintendent regarding the Columbine locks and safety plans, as well as the complete list of schools slated to get the locks under the 2010 Measure C plan.

  • Doctor J

    What a difference a change in the board majority makes with Steven Lawrence’s responsiveness — impressive. Test the ability to review the safety plans by visiting the school and asking to see the plan, review it, and critique it — send a letter asking to be given notice of the public hearing on the adoption of the next safety plan — its the law.

  • g

    Were the door locks put on a back burner in favor of solar?

    We know (now) that to get their “solar money” everything else was put on a back burner beginning back about two years before 2010 C was even mentioned.

    As for 2002 Measure C, and Lawrences response: “With respect to door hardware, the 2002 Plan called for the retrofitting of no less than 50% of existing non-compliant door hardware with ADA compliant hardware. In selecting that compliant hardware, we elected to use a ‘Columbine’ type door hardware that could be locked down from the interior of the classroom. While we endeavored to expand the percentage of door hardware actually retrofitted as we progressed through the five year Measure C program, there still are at least 43 sites which have not been fully retrofitted with ‘Columbine’ type devices.” Plan was for at least 50% of 55 school sites. But 43 remain incomplete–or not done at all?

    However, just from 2002 measure C, Dent got well over $4.2million of upgrades, Willow Creek $3.6million, Loma Vista nearly $8million, PHEC $8million.

    Now with 2010 they are getting even more upgrades, but school site security is still on a back burner….

    Lawrence wasn’t here yet when 2002 C was “wrapping up” but someone else in charge of deciding what was more important, and where the money got spent is still here—double dipping—and still running the show!

  • Doctor J

    Door locks are a back burner to athletic fields, solar and any other pet project — why ?

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    @19 — Re the breakin at Dent…I guess that’s one hard drive that the district attorney won’t have to worry about — if the hijinks at MDUSD ever attract his interest.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I’m hearing it was a laptop.

  • Stan Oberg

    I taught at Acalanes High School for 39 years and, in my retirement, I substitute at all four Acalanes Union High School District schools (Acalanes, Campolindo, Las Lomas, and Miramonte). I am unaware of any classrooms in that district that have doors that can be locked from the inside. In order to lock the door, one has to step outside that classroom, lock the door with a key, then close the door from inside the room. And most of the classrooms in that district open directly to the outside.

    The day before the school shooting in Connecticut, Las Lomas High School held an intruder drill.The students were wonderful; they knew exactly what to do. The procedures call for teachers to step into the hallway, grab any students who may be there and bring them into the room, then lock the door. There were no students in the hallway where I was, but I still had to lock the door from outside the classroom.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Thanks for this information. Here’s a story about what schools in East County are doing to improve security: http://www.contracostatimes.com/education/ci_22263217/east-contra-costa-schools-revisit-emergency-response-rules
    According to the story: “Oakley’s Freedom High School will be getting classroom doors that lock from the inside like those at Heritage and Liberty high schools in Brentwood — a safety measure that Liberty Union High School District was planning to implement even before the attack, said Superintendent Eric Volta.”

  • Co0urtney V. Davis

    I just found this site and am very pleased with what I’m reading. I am an MDUSD parent and have been wondering about our schools safety. I have scoured the web to find out about what safety measures are in place within our district, what monies we have allotted and whether they are being used appropriately. I haven’t found anything on your site about the pipe bomb incident on December 10th of last year. It was very disturbing message to receive over the phone about an elementary school and this was prior to the Connecticut shooting.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Courtney, I didn’t know about the pipe bomb incident on Dec. 10. Which school are you referring to?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s an article that reinforces the superintendent’s suggestion that teachers greet students entering their classrooms each day: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coach_gs_teaching_tips/2013/01/a_peaceful_loving_and_productive_start_of_class.html