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Santa Barbara Unified School District to Create Task Force for School-Safety Measures

The Santa Barbara Unified School District will create a task force next month to recommend school-safety measures.

The new group will bring together up to 12 people, led by Superintendent Cary Matsuoka and district officials, to consider public safety in conjunction with law enforcement, campus safety plans, and addressing student mental health, technology and education about bias. 

“As with any plan or protocol, ongoing evaluation of effectiveness is a part of the process,” district spokeswoman Lauren Bianchi Klemann said on Thursday. “Our community supports a review of our safety practices, and we want to make sure the steps our district has taken on school safety and mental health are in the right direction.”

The task force will include school resource officers from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and the Santa Barbara Police Department, a UC Santa Barbara professor who specializes in the study of school violence, mental health officials, Anti-Defamation League representatives, and district employees such as the assistant superintendent of secondary education, the assistant superintendent of student services and the chief technology officer.

A parent and a teacher also will be included in the task force.

The group is expected to hold its first monthly meeting in April to plan a community meeting in early-May, Bianchi Klemann said, and the first forum will help with the planning of future public meetings when district employees return for the 2018-19 school year. 

“These educational community forums will allow for dialogue about the primary issue and seek input from the public,” she said. 

The task force hopes to present the recommendations to the district’s governing board by December.

The creation of the task force is due to “a number of different factors,” Bianchi Klemann said.

It comes after the mass school shooting in Florida, and recent online threats and two incidents of threatening graffiti at the San Marcos High School campus near Goleta.

“The timing of a task force is appropriate,” Bianchi Klemann said. “We have an important opportunity to utilize global experts in the field of school safety at a time when national attention to these issues is on the forefront of all of our minds, and our local effort to hire a new safety coordinator, as well as strengthen school-based social-emotional and mental health services."

The district has school-safety protocols and plans in place, according to Bianchi Klemann.

She said the plans are reviewed annually by area law enforcement and approved by school site councils, as well as the district’s governing board.

She noted that all California schools are required by law to have a Comprehensive School Safety Plan in place under the California Education Code.

“In addition to safety plans, school administrators have a number of different safety protocols for safety concerns of sexual harassment, bullying, child-welfare concerns and school threats,” Bianchi Klemann said. “Specific to school threats, administrators utilize a five-page threat assessment form when they become aware of, and/or respond to, a threat to the school and student safety.”

The protocol was updated in 2016 and reviewed by district assistant principals and deans last year, according to Bianchi Klemann.

“What has changed this year, is that we are working to make our internal protocols more transparent with our families,” Bianchi Klemann said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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