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Discussing school safety in Placer County

By: Placer County Supervisor Jack Duran
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In the days and weeks after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, I heard from many people in our community – including school district parents and concerned residents – who had questions. Why does this continue to happen? What can we do to stop it? And, “Are we prepared for something like this?”

Just like many of you, I have nieces and nephews in local schools and my own kids attend Sierra Community College, so I had the same questions and concerns. I asked several colleagues in law enforcement, education and county administration whether now was the time to discuss school safety and their response was a resounding “Yes.”

Within a few days, my staff and I were working with other local leaders to coordinate the Placer School Safety Forum.  I am proud of the quick action that was taken to coordinate this community-wide conversation. We are fortunate to live in a community with committed and concerned leaders.

On March 8, more than 200-plus members of our community came together with representatives from the Roseville Joint Union High School District, Roseville Police Department, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Placer County Office of Education and the Placer County Health and Human Services Department to discuss safety in our schools.  The forum was also streamed live.

Panel members addressed multiple topics related to school safety, as well as their specific role in ensuring a safe environment for our kids.  They shared critical information about preparedness, prevention and response, including a discussion of recent campus lockdown incidents at several district high schools. 

While these are extremely difficult issues, the purpose of the forum was not to frighten or divide.  Instead, it was a chance to bring our community together around shared principles and best practices for school safety, and a shared understanding of what to expect in the event of a crisis.

For example, many participants were not familiar with what a lockdown entails.  This is a response to a threat directly against the school or in the surrounding community. It can involve the locking of interior and exterior doors on campus, as well as other precautionary measures.

In these incredibly tense situations, public-safety professionals on scene need to be aware of the intentions of every individual they encounter. For this reason, law enforcement has asked that parents not go to the school if a lockdown incident occurs.  Instead, the school or district will contact parents to let them know where to go to pick up their kids.

At the beginning of the forum, we took a moment to remember the 17 lives that were lost in the Parkland, Florida shooting. Sadly, there are many more students and educators who have lost their lives to violence on school grounds. The work of keeping schools safe is truly a group effort, combining mental health, school operations, law enforcement and families in our communities.  Everyone has a role to play.  Our goal is to make sure that our community is doing all it can to prevent a tragedy like this from happening in our community and to ensure that we are all prepared, should such an event occur. 

This two-hour forum provided helpful information and insights for families across our community.  If you were not able to attend, a video of the event remains available at https://vimeo.com/259953066.  Some local school districts also offer additional resources or events on this important topic. Ultimately, there are many ways to get involved and learn about keeping our community safe and I hope you will take some time to learn more.

As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you. I always welcome your feedback and can be reached by e-mail at jduran@placer.ca.gov or by phone at 916-787-8950.

Placer County Supervisor Jack Duran represents Roseville and parts of unincorporated Placer County.