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RSF School District replies to San Diego County Grand Jury report

RANCHO SANTA FE — In an effort to increase the awareness and effectiveness for school safety, the San Diego County Grand Jury issued a report on March 24, 2014 entitled, “School Security: There Is No Greater Purpose.”

It was sent to the San Diego School Districts.

In its summary, the Grand Jury felt because school violence still “remains a viable threat,” the principle reason behind the report was to implement safety initiatives for its students, teachers and administrators.

Out of nine recommendations, the Rancho Santa Fe School District replied to the San Diego Grand Jury regarding two of them.

The district’s legal representative, Richard Currier, Esq., has been their external general counsel for 25 years.

Currier pointed out that from time to time, the Grand Jury focuses on various topics, will determine whether or not to investigate them, and if so, they then issue a report.

Currently, school security is the report topic.

Currier shared that seven of these nine recommendations by the Grand Jury were already being implemented such as identifying key personnel for school security; a school security plan for emergency response and preparedness; security training programs with outside support services such as local law enforcement, and, website access for Crime Stoppers and Students Speaking Out.

While the Rancho Santa Fe School District takes school security highly seriously, Currier said, they did disagree with two of the recommendations. In fact, Currier already issued a letter to the Grand Jury regarding their two recommendations.

One of which was 14-10: Develop and publish a Security Awareness and Prevention Program that is geared specifically for parent participation to help them identify abnormal behaviors of their children and the resources to turn to for help.

“Superintendent Delaney and I discussed this at some length, and in regard to all these recommendations, we thought it was quite frankly, ‘over the top’ to have a program that is geared specifically to parents to participate in it to identify abnormal behaviors and inform the district about them,” said Currier, adding how he thought its description was vague.

Rather than having parents inform the district about abnormal behaviors, Currier said, the concern was more to be informed by the parents if a child were to make any threats with regard to the school or anyone at the school.

The other was recommendation 14-15: Develop a plan for initiating school-to-parent communication channels that encourage parents and others to come forward and report behavioral problems that could result in violent behavior.

“Our thoughts are that we don’t need a plan for that, maybe we just inform parents if you think there is a problem, pick up the phone and call the district administrator,” Currier said.

Currier went on to say that sometimes there is an emphasis that a whole plan, procedure or policy is needed. But in some cases, all that is required is informing parents to contact the district if there is an issue or problem they need to be aware of.

“In my letter, it is indicated that the Rancho Santa Fe School District is a small elementary school district, with only one school site,” said Currier, noting how the report represented a once size fits all approach which didn’t pertain to their district.

The Grand Jury responded to Currier’s April 11 letter, requesting a more detailed reply to the disagreed recommendations.

Currier is in the process of doing that now and conveyed that the school district has always made safety and security its top priority.

“We were lucky enough to build a new school, where we were able to implement and add safety features to the new school that our old school did not have,” Superintendent Lindy Delaney said.

Additionally, they also implement regular safety and security drills.

Having the sheriff’s substation across the street is another benefit. “And not only are they responsive, but they are proactive and the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol is also a great help to us as a school and we can call on them anytime,” said Delaney, noting how fortunate they were.

For Delaney, school security is always a work in progress.

The district has done a lot in regard to school security, Currier said, while still trying to maintain the friendly, rural nature of the school.