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School Safety Changes OK'd by N-MUSD

Teachers will receive new training on how to respond to shootings or other violence.

The Newport-Mesa school board gave the green light Tuesday night to a program designed to keep students and teachers safe in the event of a school shooting.

Prompted by the Sandy Hook tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut and a recent shooting at Fashion Island, school administrators decided to update safety procedures at district schools.

The new plan includes a "Run, Hide, Act" theme that will train staff to respond to threats of violence by barricading doors, finding safe hiding places, silencing cell phones and turning off lights. Teachers and staff will also be trained to stop the threat of violence by yelling, throwing items and charging at a shooter during the most extreme cases.

"This will allow staff members that identify a threat of violence to act; they won't have to wait for a call from the front office to begin to move," Assistant Superintendent Susan Astarita explained. "They will be trained to respond in a proactive manner."

Although the plan was approved by trustees, some voiced reservations.

"It's a little aggressive," board member Walt Davenport said of the plan's "Act" section.

Board member Katrina Foley echoed Davenport.

"I think we need to have some clear lines as to when this action will occur because we can't have it be every time there is a disruptive person on campus," Foley said. "I hope it's only for the worst-case scenarios, not when there is a disruptive student or parent."

Astarita said the new safety tactics were developed by a special task force assigned to evaluate the safety of N-MUSD schools, and included Newport Beach Deputy Chief David McGill, Corona del Mar High School Resource Officer Vladimir Anderson and school psychologists. She said training would address Davenport and Foley's concerns.

"It's a difficult topic to deal with, but we will train staff to make good judgment calls," Astarita said. "There is a whole lot of common sense that will go into training staff for these things.”

The updated safety plan also requires teachers to lock their doors at all times, school staff to wear an ID badge while on campus, increasing the number of lockdown drills from two to four or six per year, and equipping school administrators and security officers at intermediate and high school campuses with hand-held devices containing student information and ID pictures.

Board member Martha Fluor asked staff to look into creating an "If you see something, say something" campaign for an anonymous tip line for students, and posters for the classrooms to encourage students to report suspicious behavior.

“This will address the school culture and it addresses safety. 'If you see something, say something' can even go down to bullying," Fluor said.

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