San Diego Unified Families:
The tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last week, has left many of us heartbroken at the senseless loss of life. As parents, it is natural that we have questions about the safety of our students. I am writing to share some of the ways our schools work every day to protect our students. I also want to share some of the inspiring ways our students are reacting to this tragedy, because - as so often is the case - sometimes the best in all of us comes out in response to the worst situations.
The employees of the San Diego Unified School District fully embrace the awesome responsibility of caring for your children. From the classroom teacher to the school custodian, the bus driver to the landscaper, our staff engages in “active safety,” constantly looking for anything that might harm a child, whether it is a physical safety hazard or a potential threat of violence. At the start of this school year, we added requirements that each site conduct a minimum of two annual lockdown drills.
We also have over 1,500 cameras in our schools that are monitored by our School Police Dispatch Team. That team operates 24-hours per day and 7 days per week. We take all threats seriously and encourage you to speak with your children to remind them, if they “See Something, Say Something.” The number for our dispatch center is 619-291-7678.
Our Police Department consists of 38 sworn officers with the same training as any police agency in California. Our officers are trained in active shooter training and we regularly train with neighboring jurisdictions.
Each of our schools maintain strict compliance with all State-Mandated safe school planning and documentation, which is monitored and approved by our own School Police Department—the only full-time K-12 public safety agency in the county. We have an officer assigned to each of our 16 school clusters, along with additional mobile patrol officers to provide extra support.
We are constantly examining ways to improve the physical safety of our schools, simultaneously adding training opportunities for our staff. We are working to expand our existing two-hour “Emergency Mindset” training for school staff, while constantly examining newer tactics and improved best practices.
There are also specific steps parents can take to improve the safety of their children. Parents are encouraged to have age-appropriate conversations about being aware of their surroundings, reporting any concerning behavior, while working to reduce bullying and violence. Know your children's friends, monitor their social media, use homework time to look through their backpacks and binders, and periodically check their room. All too often, as more information about these events unfolds, we learn that there were missed warning signs.
Then, there are the steps our children are taking for themselves to speak out on their right to feel safe in school. As educators, I know all of us have been inspired by the leadership our children have shown in response to this latest tragedy. As a district, we support the right of our students to speak and act for themselves. I have heard from several schools already where student leaders are planning powerful events on the scheduled national days for action next month.
Like other districts nationwide, San Diego Unified has been the subject of several non-credible threats since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida last week. School Police investigates and takes every threat seriously. Please take this opportunity to talk to your child about the consequences of making comments that could be perceived as a threat.
Please feel free to contact your principal, or email me directly with any thoughts you would like to share on the issue of safety and security. Together, we can keep all our students safe and build a better future for all of us. Thank you for your continued support.
Cindy Marten, Superintendent