San Diego

Student Safety Improvements Take Step Forward in North County School District

The security improvements at SDUHSD were planned long before a shooting at a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida killed 17 people

Security enhancements have been long in the works for one North County school district, but since a shooting in Parkland, Florida threats to local schools have increased, making the enhancements more important than ever.

"Being at school is still safer than driving to school but that doesn't mean that we can't do more in order to protect students and staff while they're here at school," San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) Superintendent Eric Dill said. 

The district has awarded contracts to begin building new safety enhancements at district schools, starting with Torrey Pines High School, thanks to a bond funding allocation of $1.5 million from the SDUHSD School Board. The district oversees five middle schools and five high schools. 

The security improvements at SDUHSD were planned long before a shooting at a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida killed 17 people, mostly students. But the shooting brought campus security and student safety into the spotlight, thanks to a national movement started, in part, by survivors of the shooting on February 14. 

In the weeks following the Parkland shooting, two Torrey Pines High School teenagers were arrested in connection with threats made toward the school. The San Diego Police Department said action at the school was taken swiftly and both students were booked into juvenile hall.

SDUHSD's security measures will include having a secure single point of entry and a state-of-the-art surveillance system at every school in the district. 

But first, they'll build perimeter fencing, a major undertaking considering campuses in the county were designed to be sprawling and easily accessible.

"Every campus was built in a different decade, different layout, so we did a comprehensive analysis of all of our campuses, where the deficits were and how we could best enhance the security of each one of those campuses," Dill said.

SDUHSD and neighboring school districts are also working together to add social programs to help students, like a middle school program called "Say Hello," which is geared in helping students with the transition between elementary school middle school.

There is also a suicide-prevention program and a campaign called "Say Something" that includes an app so students can report anything suspicious.

"One of the common threads with all the unfortunate incidents that have occurred throughout the country is that somebody said something or posted something on social media, that others saw," Dill said. "There are many instances of those types of crisis being averted because somebody said something." 

Other school districts in the county will soon see improvements as well. Last week, about 200 San Diego County administrative and law enforcement leaders gathered for a "School Safety Summit" to review a revised protocol handling threats.

The goal of the summit was to create a coordinated plan that will reduce the risk of school threats and improve the county's response to threats.

A representative from every school district in the county was in attendance.

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