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Superintendent: School Safety Is a Top Priority

First published in the Feb. 11 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

By Vivian Ekchian
Special to the News-Press

Last week, Crescenta Valley High School students and staff experienced an event that is, unfortunately, all too familiar for schools across the country.
An unauthorized individual entered the CVHS campus prompting law enforcement response and a lockdown at CVHS, as well as nearby La Crescenta Elementary and Cloud Preschool. The CVHS intrusion was a critical reminder that our primary responsibility to protect the safety of our students and employees is never finished.
Of course, we are grateful that no physical harm came to anyone on campus. Upon learning of the incident, CVHS and district staff, along with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies, conducted a thorough search of the CVHS campus. Once Sheriff’s Deputies confirmed there was no active threat to the school, students were moved to a nearby church out of an abundance of caution while Sheriff’s Deputies undertook an additional systematic search to ensure the intruder did not leave any harmful objects behind.
I am thankful to our staff and law enforcement who demonstrated compassion and professionalism as they worked quickly to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and employees. I am equally appreciative of our students and families who remained calm in a rapidly changing situation and followed instructions from law enforcement, as well as our community partners who supported us throughout the process.
I empathize with our students, employees and families who experienced fear and anxiety throughout the incident and in the days that followed. There are far too many examples of situations in other places where the end result was much more tragic. We naturally reference these examples when events like this unfold. In these moments, we learn from our experiences and continue to improve our processes.
Upon reviewing the events of that day, we have already made some important changes to CVHS procedures that enhance our ability to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering campus. Our plan includes limiting the number of access points to the campus and ensuring that every open gate is monitored by an adult. CVHS teachers and staff will be wearing identification badges so that any adult who tries to enter one of those supervised entrances without a badge will be refused entry and referred to the front office where they will need to check in using our visitor identification process.
This check-in process is one of the multilayered security tools used at all of our schools, including motion-activated security cameras, secured entrances, individualized school safety plans and frequent safety drills. Additionally, security guards are stationed at every GUSD middle and high school, and a school resource officer assigned by either the Glendale Police Department or the Sheriff’s Department is located at our three largest high schools.
All of the tools and training GUSD utilizes districtwide are recognized as successful practices for school security. We will continue to review our school safety plans so that the necessary practices are implemented consistently and possible changes to longstanding practices will be reexamined to the benefit of increased safety for all students and staff.
We must continuously make improvements as we search for balance between keeping our schools safe and creating positive, welcoming environments on our campuses, particularly given the increasing nationwide prevalence of violent incidents on school campuses over the past few decades. Ensuring our schools are safe is a community effort and we appreciate the support we consistently receive from our families, our law enforcement partners and our community leaders. I look forward to continued conversations as we work together to create a better, safer environment for everyone.

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