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County agencies address campus gun violence

Panelists and parents meet March 8 in Roseville
By: Mackenzie Meyers
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By the numbers: School violence in Placer County

10 percent: high school freshmen who have seen a weapon on campus at least once

11 percent: high school juniors who have seen a weapon on campus at least once

20 percent: freshmen who have been bullied online

17 percent: juniors who have been bullied online

74 percent: freshmen who feel “safe” or “very safe” at school

76 percent: juniors who feel “safe” or “very safe” at school

97 percent: freshmen who have never been threatened or injured by a weapon at school

98 percent: juniors who have never been threatened or injured by a weapon at school.

(Source: 2014-16 California Healthy Kids Survey, Placer County. All answers relevant to the previous 12 months at the time of survey.)

 

On March 8, nearly a month after a school shooting killed 17 in Parkland, Florida, hundreds of Placer County residents watched each victim’s face appear on a screen over 3,000 miles away.

The residents gathered in Roseville March 8 to learn what procedures are in place to stop an active shooter and what can be done to prevent such a situation from occurring.

While there have been no deadly incidents in Placer County as of press time, the issue of gun violence on school campuses has hit closer to home in recent weeks. Threats, whether verbal or written, have popped up at multiple South Placer schools within the last month.

Although school districts in Loomis, Lincoln and Rocklin report no lockdown incidents this year, four Roseville high schools have had gun-related incidents since last fall. Of the incidents, three required lockdowns, according to Roseville Joint Union spokeswoman Shannon Blockton.

After the Parkland shooting, Placer County Supervisor Jack Duran heard from concerned parents and assembled the forum. Officials representing the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Health and Human Services and Office of Education joined the Roseville Police Department and high school district.

“As public officials, we can never shy away from discussing tough issues,” Duran said.

Much of the discussion focused on local law enforcement’s efforts to protect students and secure school grounds.

A video, made by Del Oro High School alumnus Avery Peck, explained different procedures that law enforcement might follow in the event of an active shooter. Shelter-in-place scenarios respond to a possible threat and allows students some mobility, such as being escorted to a bathroom.

By contrast, lockdowns respond to an immediate threat and makes a facility appear unoccupied through darkening windows, locking doors and instructing students to turn off cell phones and remain silent.

Lt. Josh Barnhart and Sgt. Jason Davis with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office explained to parents that officers undergo rigorous training to respond to these incidents. Officers are trained to bypass students asking for help or medical assistance, Barnhart explained. The main objective is to eliminate the threat; anything else is a distraction.

“This is a big fear I have. I’m not going to lie to you,” Davis told parents. But the officers assured parents that, unlike the deputy in Parkland who stayed outside the school while a shooter was on campus, deputies here will give it their all.

They’re also committed to investigating even veiled threats on social media, Barnhart said. Threats on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or elsewhere online will be taken seriously.

According to Lt. Mark Glynn of the Roseville Police Department, Snapchat is of particular concern, since messages, photos and videos disappear shortly after transmission.

Dr. Twylla Abrahamson with Placer County Health and Human Services recommended parents pay attention to their child’s social media use and monitor their behavior offline too.

“You’re the first person to know if something’s changed,” Abrahamson said. Parents should reach out to school resources such as counselors if they notice a change in their child’s behavior. A call to the pediatrician is also wise, she said, since behavioral changes could stem from an underlying medical issue.

Abrahamson also recommended limiting exposure to news coverage of violent events and instead involve children in activities that provide a feeling of normalcy.

“Remember how you felt watching 9/11. Watching it over and over again can make things worse,” she said. “Make sure they’re not ruminating on it.”

The parent-focused forum included questions from the audience after the panelists spoke. Right off the bat, panelists addressed a debate that has become increasingly popular nationwide: arming teachers.

A moment of silence passed, followed by nervous laughter from the crowd, before Roseville officers chimed in.

Glynn said the idea was “concerning,” since arming teachers could complicate law enforcement’s trained response to an active shooter situation. In a situation with armed teachers, officers would have to then determine whether the teacher was a threat. If the only ones on campus with guns are uniformed officers or the perpetrator, it’s easier to pick out the threat.

Bridgette Dean, social services administrator for Roseville police, pointed toward specializations of each group.

“(Teachers) are there to provide a learning environment for kids,” she said. “Let’s support them in the classroom and let officers (do their jobs). We need to be focusing on what each of our missions are.”