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
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.
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
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.