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UPDATED: Letter to Families: CUSD School Safety

February 23, 2018


Dear CUSD Community:


We received many emails and inquiries after my letter on School Safety was sent to families last week. The shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shook our community and left more questions than answers. As a mom and as your Superintendent, I want all of our young people to be safe in our classrooms and on our campuses. Over the last week, families have inquired about social-emotional supports for students, safety training for students, and information on campus safety and security.



Social and Emotional Supports

In 2015, our Board of Trustees committed $3 million a year to hire 30 new counselors, giving our District the distinction of being one of the first school Districts in the county to have a counselor on staff at every school from elementary to high school. This is a tremendous investment in early intervention for our young people that was put in place to support them today and throughout their educational careers here in CUSD and beyond. Our counselors work with our students in groups and on an individual basis and intervene when students are struggling with grades or attendance or showing other indicators that may indicate the need for stronger interventions.


Topics in our School Counseling Core Curriculum Action Plan for our students include, but are not limited to, respecting differences, emotion management, managing test anxiety, coping with peer pressure, bullying, managing strong feelings, problem-solving skills, learning styles and time management, and beginning in grade 7, suicide prevention. All of these topics are not covered in each grade but are age appropriate and build upon social-emotional lessons learned in previous grades.


Beyond the supports provided by our counselors, when there is a threat or even a perceived threat made by a student, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department School Mobile Assessment and Resource Team (SMART) performs an investigation that often times includes the student (or students), friends and family, social media postings, cell phones and whatever they believe will assist them in their work. SMART is used in school situations or incidents related to violence, threats, possession and/or use of weapons, unstable behaviors and suicidal actions or tendencies.


Student and Staff Safety Drills

Currently, we require the following for staff and students: Evacuation/fire drills are conducted once per month for elementary schools, four times a year for middle schools and twice per year for high schools. Drop, Cover and Hold drills are conducted once per quarter at elementary schools and once per semester at middle and high schools. National Incident Management Systems (NIMS) drills are conducted once per year at all CUSD schools.


Finally, lockdown drills are conducted twice per year at all CUSD schools. Our lockdown drills include the “Deny Access, Evade and Engage” (DEE) protocol that we created in collaboration with Sheriff’s Department. This training includes a component titled “Evade” so that, when appropriate, teachers and students can move to a safe place out of danger (i.e. exit the building or area) and it includes a component titled “Engage” because, if necessary, we want students and staff to use any resource/object necessary to stop an individual from doing harm. School Faculty and Staff are also required to review the Deny Access, Evade and Engage training video every year.


This year, we also equipped our schools with Emergency Trauma Kits that contain essential medical supplies to enable school staff to treat victims suffering from acute trauma. This is in addition to the lockdown kits we have in each classroom and the door blocks we have on outside facing classroom doors.


Our work with law enforcement enhances the drills we conduct on our campuses and strengthens our work during an emergency. Each Sheriff’s patrol vehicle has instant access to aerial photos and floorplans for every school in our District so responding deputies can arrive on the scene with situational awareness of the school they are approaching. Our tabletop exercises and emergency drills take place throughout the year and are intended to strengthen communication and collaboration with the Sheriff’s Department and enhance our emergency operations plans and protocols. In January, District leadership and staff performed a tabletop exercise with Orange County Sheriff’s SWAT, Bomb Squad and San Clemente Chief of Police in a scenario that involved a person on campus with a weapon. We will be conducting a similar exercise at Dana Hills High School in March, which was planned prior to the school shooting in Florida.


Campus Safety and Security


The school district is supported by local cities that provide School Resource Officers, which are assigned to our individual high schools as well as K-8 families of schools. These officers provide daily security as well as rapid response to emergencies, along with all first responders, when necessary. Our School Resource Officers also provide us with student intervention and resources when required. Finally, as mentioned in my letter last week, we utilize the Sheriff’s Department in planning and security assessments of our schools with the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center.


We also require that our Principals update their school safety plan every year and assemble emergency command teams on every campus.  Site leaders and staff should enforce visitor check-in procedures, including the issuance of visitor and volunteer badges, and monitor their facilities to ensure gates, locks, and systems work appropriately.


The devastating events in Parkland, Florida remind us that we as a District, in collaboration with our cities, our families, and our community, need to take time to review our emergency plans and protocols and identify opportunities to strengthen our work to prevent these instances from occurring, as well as identify opportunities for us to react swiftly and appropriately when emergencies take place. I appreciate your partnership in this work and ask that you continue to share your input and speak up if you see anything suspicious on our campuses.



Kirsten Vital



February 15, 2018


Dear CUSD Families:


Today, our hearts are heavy for the families, friends and entire Parkland, Florida community as we mourn the devastating loss of life that occurred yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This morning, many families are asking us what plans and procedures we have in place to safeguard our students, families, and staff in emergencies.


CUSD has a safety plan that is specific to each site and is reviewed every year and we have worked to build and strengthen this plan since 2012. We have an incredible relationship with law enforcement that includes daily interaction and communication as well as collaborative participation in safety exercises and planning.


The District also works with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in planning and security assessments of our schools and with the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center (OCIAC). OCIAC is an integrated, multi-disciplined, information and intelligence sharing network that collects, analyzes, and disseminates information on all criminal risks and safety threats to law enforcement, fire, health, the private sector and public sector stakeholders in order to protect the residents, visitors, and critical infrastructure. In addition, Sheriff’s Deputies are assigned to our campuses and we utilize the Sheriff’s Department’s School Mobile Assessment and Resource Team (SMART). SMART is used in school situations or incidents related to violence, threats, possession and/or use of weapons, unstable behaviors and suicidal actions or tendencies.


In the area of training, we conduct ongoing drills and simulated emergency exercises for our staff and this training is reviewed and modified as needed. We also train our staff to speak up and report suspicious activity they see at our school sites or offices.


Finally, we have the benefit of many parents, students, teachers, administrators and staff on our campuses and we ask that you report any unusual and suspicious activity. Please talk to your child/children to remind them that they, too, can report anything suspicious. We want everyone on our campuses to be empowered to speak up about anything that looks out of place. Please reach out to your school principals or site administration for guidance and questions. Thank you for your support.



Kirsten Vital

Posted by: Tania Cluttey, District Admin, Capistrano Unified School District Published:2/15/18
Audience: Webmasters, K-8 Schools News Group, Elementary School News Group, High School News Group and Middle School News Group

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