CARLSBAD — The times have dramatically changed and school districts are adapting.
On Aug. 27, the Carlsbad Unified School District hosted its 1,000 employees at Sage Creek High School and covered security and safety measures, especially in active shooter situations. The staff members attended three workshops, two focusing on safety, and another, more uplifting session to get ready for the school year.
Cpl. Brendan Kidd of the Carlsbad Police Department spoke for about 40 minutes detailing various methods and actions teachers should implement in their classrooms as part of the Options-based Response Training.
In addition, Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill said staff also met with principals of their schools to review site-specific safety plans.
“We wanted to make sure it’s not just teachers,” he said. “We did a safety audit over the spring and summer and realized we have some areas where we want to do more. We want our people to be empowered to make decisions in the moment.”
Kidd said policing and how schools address safety all changed after the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999, where 15 people, including the shooters, were killed as the nation watched in horror on live TV. April 20, 2019, marks the 20th anniversary of the shooting.
Since then, police and schools have been actively addressing the issue. And after the Parkland, Florida, shooting earlier this year, security measures and how to apply those is arguably the most pressing issue facing school districts across the country.
Kidd said it’s not a matter of if, but when a community is struck by a school shooting, noting the Oct. 8, 2010, shooting at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad. He was the third officer on the scene and said the incident was a life-changing experience.
Kidd added most shootings are perpetrated by someone with a connection to the school, such as a former or current student or staff member. It’s one reason the district encourages staff “say something, if they see something.”
Protocols are in place when suspicious activity is reported and the Carlsbad Police Department is called to take over and conduct any needed investigation.
“We used to wait for SWAT,” Kidd said. “Now, if you have a gun and a badge, you go in. It’s a different mindset. Don’t fight fair because this person is not fair.”
As for the staff, Kidd spoke about Run, Hide, Fight training, which provides three options. First, is to escape if able, followed by hiding and barricading doors and fighting back by using any object possible such as a fire extinguisher.
Kimberly Huesing, director of elementary and a former principal in the district, said the district is part of the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit advocating the prevention of firearm violence. The nonprofit was established after the 2014 shooting at the Connecticut elementary school killed 26 students and teachers.
“Safety is a huge priority,” she added. “This is about having the mindset of being ready.”
Churchill said the atmosphere was positive, but that it’s a difficult conversation to engage. There are many aspects of school safety and Kidd touched on the debate of arming teachers in schools.
He said he wasn’t advocating either to arm teachers or not, but said the answer likely lies in the middle, perhaps having an individual who has firearms experience, either as a police officer or former military personnel, on campus to protect everyone.
Independent of that debate, the district recently hired Malcom Warfield as the district safety coordinator in a part-time capacity. His position will oversee site-specific needs, trainings and evaluations of site needs and training, to name a few responsibilities.