HomeBlocksFront-GridCVHS Intruder Incident Sparks School Safety Dialogue

CVHS Intruder Incident Sparks School Safety Dialogue

First published in the Feb. 4 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

Children, parents and residents from the La Crescenta area were put on alert Wednesday after the unauthorized entrance of a man at Crescenta Valley High School prompted the Glendale Unified School District to enact safety measures, including a shelter-in-place protocol and early dismissal, in conjunction with the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station.
The safety measures impacted CVHS, Crescenta Valley Elementary School and Cloud Preschool as CV Sheriff’s deputies established a perimeter around the block, sending throngs of parents to gather worriedly outside as they waited for their children.
By Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff’s deputies had located and arrested the man, who was seen on camera entering the CVHS main doors with students after doors opened — dressed in black, with a black cap and carrying a large black duffle bag. He then headed to the school’s library, where the librarian sent him back to register as a visitor at the school’s front office. Instead, it was later determined, he had left through the same entrance by 8:30 a.m., GUSD officials said on Friday.
CV Sheriff’s Captain Robert Hahnlein told the News-Press that deputies later detained the man at a Starbucks on Foothill Boulevard, but after searching the bag they found only a laptop and clothing. After arresting and booking him with a trespassing charge, he was released. A mental health evaluation team was also called in but determined the man did not meet the criteria for a 5150, or a mental health hold.
“The statement he made to officers was that he entered the school looking to use free Wi-Fi,” Hahnlein said. “Our detectives continue to investigate to make sure everything is copasetic with him, perhaps look into any potential previous criminal activity or anything else of concern.”
It appears, Hahnlein noted, that the individual is a Tujunga resident but frequents the Crescenta Valley Library and nearby Starbucks to access the internet. The man, who might have an intellectual disability, usually “pays for everything,” he added.
“This was an unfortunate incident [at CVHS], where the duffle bag did not help,” Hahnlein said. “It was a good learning experience. … I’m so glad everything turned out for the best.”
On Wednesday, GUSD Superintendent Vivian Ekchian updated parents and students throughout the day about the shelter-in-place protocol, reassuring the school communities and frantic parents that the procedures were being taken “out of an abundance of caution.”
Multiple Sheriff’s units were deployed to the scene, including SUVs, motorcycles and three helicopters, establishing the perimeter around the block of Community and La Crescenta Avenues. Following the dismissal of students and faculty, who were directed to walk to the nearby Highlands Church, Sheriff’s Department personnel and canine units swept the CVHS campus for explosives and deemed it safe.
Later Wednesday, Ekchian extended her sympathies to parents and students for the fears such safety procedures might trigger.
“I understand that the shelter-in-place and early dismissal procedures today may have been frightening for some of our students,” she said, encouraging parents to speak with children about what had happened and offered the counseling services at CVHS and La Crescenta Elementary campuses for those affected.
On Thursday in a separate email, Ekchian also emphasized that “student and employee safety is and always will be our top priority. Our school and district leaders and law enforcement partners respond immediately and thoroughly to emergency situations on our campuses. We are investigating the incident at Crescenta Valley High School yesterday in coordination with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to determine exactly what occurred and identify areas where safety measures can be improved.”
In an interview with the News-Press on Friday, Ekchian said that GUSD and Sheriff’s Department officials will hold a debriefing next week “so we can check our facts and cross reference exactly what occurred to create a more coherent and more collaborative relationship.”
Though most parents cooperated with early dismissal pick-up instructions, Ekchian noted, she also sympathized with those who panicked or feared the worst.
“Of course, we empathize with parents and their concerns because of the anxiety attached to what may be happening in other places. We understand where parents are coming from in these moments, and we will learn from our experiences and continue to improve processes. We continued to inform them there was no threat,” she said. “Sometimes, it takes an investigation and review of facts, and answers aren’t always readily available when the shelter in place is happening.”


As the only GUSD high school to have an open campus policy, CVHS students are allowed to leave and return at will during lunchtime. The longstanding procedure has been debated throughout the years, especially as issues surrounding safety on school campuses have taken on more importance.
Though GUSD continually updates its campus safety protocols, most recently shared at a Jan. 31 Local Control Accountability Plan Town Hall regarding student safety, health and wellness, it might be time for another community discussion about the CVHS campus, Ekchian told parents.
“We must continuously make adjustments as we search for a balance between protecting the safety of our students and employees and creating positive, welcoming environments on our campuses,” she said. “In response to the incident at CV High … I am convening a committee that will include student, employee, family and community voices, to proactively address this challenge and work together to find proactive solutions,” she said.
The intention of a committee will be to solicit feedback, she told the News-Press.
Though the open-campus policy has been debated on and off over the years, the conversation hasn’t been formalized under Ekchian’s tenure as superintendent since she began more than four years ago.
“Safety measures are constantly changing,” she said.
“It’s important to me to be a listening leader, to hear suggestions and make improvements. Together, we will come up with recommendations and solutions, but the entire community must buy in to this as well. … it has to be a collaborative process and involve law enforcement and community leaders to create a better, safer environment for everyone.”

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