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 How SDCOE Supports School Safety

​In the wake of last month’s fatal shooting at a Florida high school, numerous questions have been raised about school safety -- particularly focused on what education agencies are doing to keep students safe.

Schools remain among the safest places for students. Based on the national statistics, the average number of active-shooter attacks in the United States is about 18 to 20 a year, with about 17 percent (three to four) involving K-12 schools. With more than 55 million students attending more than 125,000 public schools in the United States, this is not a danger that most schools are likely to experience. 

“We know that school safety is foremost on every parent’s mind, and our team is well-prepared to help schools implement best practices in prevention and safety,” County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold said.

Added County Board of Education President Guadalupe González, “It’s our duty to support the education of every student in San Diego County, and that includes ensuring a safe learning environment.”

Safety takes many forms and it is important for schools to be prepared for a variety of situations. That's why the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) provides numerous safety-related supports and training opportunities for the region’s school districts, including workshops, technical assistance, and direct services on:

  • Developing and supporting Comprehensive School Safety Plans
  • Options-Based Responses in Active-Shooter Situations
  • Threat assessment
  • Mental health crisis intervention

Schools are required by law to have a Comprehensive School Safety Plan, which is developed by a school’s site council or safety committee. When advising on safety plans, SDCOE encourages schools to consider such questions as whether adequate emergency response procedures are in place, or are there places on campus where students don’t feel safe. Asking such questions can help yield strategies about where improved supervision or other kinds of assistance to students is needed.

While threat assessment training is not required in Comprehensive School Safety Plans, it is recommended and offered by SDCOE. Recommended participants include school administrators, school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and school police officers. SDCOE’s threat assessment training is based on the work of Dr. Dewey Cornell of the Virginia Youth Violence Project. The training reviews a practical, site-based team approach for conducting thorough, accurate assessments of students' threats of violence. The next training is April 13.

SDCOE’s Youth Mental Health First Aid training shares a five-step action plan to provide initial help to young people showing signs of a mental illness crisis, and connect them with the appropriate professional, peer, social, or self-help care. The workshop is recommended for any adult who works with young people, including social workers, teachers, nurses, counselors, coaches, secretaries, registrars, lunch staff, and bus drivers. The next training is May 9.

SDCOE's Options-Based Responses trainer of trainers workshop focuses on best practices to adapt federal guidelines for responding to armed-intruder situations on a K-12 school campus. In the training, which has been vetted and endorsed by local law enforcement, participants learn to lead their school or school district through the planning process needed to support the implementation of this approach, an adaptation of “Run, Hide, Fight.” The next training is June 21.

Trainings related to school safety issues are scheduled throughout the year at SDCOE sites. School districts may also arrange to have the workshops conducted at their own sites. Contact Marco Gonzalez at 858-571-7284 or for more information.