Community Magazine

Local School Districts Respond to Connecticut School Shooting

By Wonder

1218_schoolsafetysign_w320_res72Local school district officials in the San Gabriel Valley have been reviewing school safety procedures in light of last week’s Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

The first reaction has been to assure parents and students that adequate and sensible safety precautions are in place to prevent or minimize such a tragedy. But the immediate response has been to provide counseling programs for children who look to their own school as a refuge from violence.

“I think the other tragedy in this is that for many kids school is a sanctuary,” said Pasadena Unified School District spokesman Adam Wolfson. “School is seen as a place where you can have a safe period of your day, receive meals – it provides that respite.”

Wolfson said the district is focusing on both short and long term responses. Though the long term involves reassessing a school safety plan, the short-term response addresses the immediate emotional needs of local students and teachers attempting to understand a national tragedy, such as the Newtown school shooting.

“We have crisis counselors available, especially in our elementary schools – available to give students support, and also letting families know about other resources available,” Wolfson said.

Sierra Madre Elementary did just that on Monday, hosting a Crisis Counseling and Support event to help children manage distress after a tragedy.

Although unable to reach the principal before deadline, the school offered the following description of its counseling program, which was also open to faculty, staff and parents: “Our hearts go out to the families and school community in Newtown, Connecticut, for their terrible loss. At a time when children may be struggling with feelings, they will be turning to parents and trusted adults for guidance.”

San Gabriel Unified School District Superintendent David Yoshihara said that his school principals have held staff meetings this week to offer assistance to both the district’s students and teachers.

“They discussed how to appropriately share the information with students and how safety is among our highest priorities,” said Yoshihara. “Some have offered a moment of silence during their morning message as they welcome students back.

Yoshihara also said that district level members were increasing their visibility along with the San Gabriel Police Department throughout the week.

According to the Superintendent, the district has advised staff to review their school safety plans, and some schools will hold lockdown drills throughout the week, giving students and staff additional practice if they should have to deal with a crisis situation that demands a lockdown.

But most importantly, Yoshihara said the district has the most to gain from what parents and local community leaders have to say about their own children’s schools.

“We will be working with our stakeholder groups, including parents to first listen to their concerns as they stem from Newtown and then determine how to best address them,” he said. “This will occur over the coming months as we digest the news that continues to come out of Connecticut.”

The PUSD has taken immediate action with its campuses to increase patrols in the three municipalities that encompass its district, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Pasadena and Sierra Madre police departments.

The district spokesman said that its schools are reviewing its safety plans, scheduling additional training to ensure everyone is up to date on training and preparedness, while having students participate in drills at least once a month.

“We’ve also asked our principals and staff to be more vigilant, which I think is a natural reaction anyways,” said Wolfson.

He said the public should know about the district’s texting service where parents and community stakeholders may receive emergency notifications from PUSD. To receive notifications people can text PUSD to 888777 or sign up online at, a service provided by Nixle.

Since last Friday’s news of the school shooting, PUSD has received nearly a 25 percent increase in people who have signed up to receive emergency notifications, according to Wolfson.

Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, sent a letter to President Obama on Monday, expressing the grief of education leaders across California.

“Our schools must be safe havens for students and teachers, and last week’s tragedy is deeply disturbing to all of us who have made the care of children our life’s work,” said Torlakson in a letter to the President.

He also informed the President that school officials across California are reassuring students and parents that schools will remain safe places for students.

The California Emergency Management Agency,, has provided online links to resources for school officials, faculty and teachers.

The Cal EMA website provides resources for parents and adults on how to talk to kids about “scary news” and helping children after a traumatic event. The site also provides links to action guides for emergency planning for schools as well as links to the FBI and Secret Service’s school violence websites.

To access this information, visit the School Safety Tips page from the News and Media section at

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