School Safety a Focus in Wake of School Shootings


Dayana Ramirez-Venegas

Private security watches the main gate to check visitors.

On May 24, 2022, a mass shooting took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 21 lives were lost – 19 children and two teachers. Out of 50 states, 42 have reported mass shootings since 1966. According to School Shootings This Year: How Many and Where, 42 school shootings have occurred in 2022.

Alisal High School is not immune to these incidents. Last school year, the school had two incidents, though neither involved any lost lives. On March 16, 2022, the school was placed on lockdown during sixth period and a  student was arrested with a .38 caliber handgun. 

Just 29 days later, on April 13, 2022, the second lockdown happened during SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) testing. A student was having an emotional breakdown and was not threatening anyone. Luckily, nobody was hurt in either of these situations. “At first I thought it didn’t matter, but when you really think about it there was someone with a gun… in school,” senior Anahi Zamudio-Santiago said, who was present at both of the incidents. 

After that incident, students and staff realized the school still has a lot of precautions to take in order to ensure the safety of everyone. According to an informal survey of  686 students,  60.5% of students feel somewhat safe, 35.4% feel very safe, and 4.1% responded with not feeling safe at all. 

Something that teachers felt needed improvement was communication. “The lack of communication was the biggest concern for teachers because the students were finding out information before we, as teachers, were about what was happening in those events,” English teacher Jared Hart said. 

However, to improve on the communication, the district is now taking a new direction. “We are all in the process of getting on technology format, which is TalkingPoints,” Principal Ernesto Garcia said. This can lead to faster communication and the ability to get teachers on the same page. Students will not have to worry about rumors or panic because teachers will know what steps to take next. Superintendent Dan Burns said, “It would not be helpful to communicate information to all students that could lead to more of a safety issue.” 

In addition, the school hired six more campus supervisors, which means there are 12 safety members this year. Jose Salcedo-Alvarado, who is in charge of the supervisors, stated that the safety members at school consist of two campus security guards, six campus supervisors, three Covid monitors, and one detention center aid. “Thanks to having more supervisors, we are able to cover more areas to keep students and staff safe,” Salcedo stated “Having more people around makes the students behave better,“ math teacher Juan Ledesma said. 

Supervisors have been added to the back entrance, such as Mary Jane Banda. To get into the campus, campus supervisors ask the person what they are here for. There are two supervisors keeping watch at each end of the school parking lot entrances. A supervisor is also located in the Mullins Theater entrance. Building doors, such as the 1000’s building, are locked from the outside. 

Students have also seen a change in behavior, too. “The safety has increased because there used to be more fights freshman year,” Zamudio-Santiago noted. Alexandria Martinez, who is in charge of tracking student fights, has noted the decrease as well. Martinez states that she rarely hears the school’s fight code over the radio. According to the school data, the fights compared to last school year have decreased by more than 50%. 

While the extra supervisors definitely help with campus security, some people have noticed that supervisors seem distracted at times. “When I’m walking in front of the school, at lunch, on a regular basis, oftentimes I will notice supervisors on their phones,”  Hart said. Salcedo said, “We use our phones as a tool to communicate with each other.” Salcedo sends the rotation through text messages to campus supervisors, so they know what places to cover. Supervisors also check restroom passes with their phones; when doing restroom checks (every 5-10 minutes), they also have to input the times they checked the restroom onto a spreadsheet. 

Others feel like they are focusing on the wrong things. I feel like if they (security) are all going to be here, they shouldn’t just be worrying about what people are wearing and instead looking out for others,” senior Roco Contreras stated. 

“When supervisors are out there supervising, and when they identify people wearing what they’re not supposed to, that tells me that they’re doing their job,” Assistant principal, Pedro Edeza said. “That means that they’re out there examining their area, seeing what students are doing, and not allowing them to do what they’re not supposed to be doing.” 

“I know students don’t like it, I get it… but unfortunately, we had a lot of situations where safety was at risk, especially when walking to school or back home,” Edeza added. He assures that it’s just one of the safety precautions they have to take, as they want to ensure the safety of students both inside and outside of school.

In addition to the increase in supervisors, the school recently got approved for an upgrade in the security cameras. “We’re getting more cameras out by the back gate entrance, the B-40s and 50s, and at the front of the school we are going to replace some of the cameras that aren’t working, so we’re getting over 100 cameras or so,” Edeza said. These cameras will share everything clearly, as some of the older cameras have gone bad, due to the weather and age. “With our school expanding, more eyes everywhere can help locate suspicious activity quickly and effectively,” Garcia said

The district has also approved new radios for all supervisors to have. Although they have radios, these new radios are all the same ones, which allows them to communicate effectively with each other. “When we had our earthquake drill [on October 20, 2022], we had a talk on that, so we were able to communicate,” Garcia added.

Training is also a significant part of the whole process of keeping the school safe. California has two tier trainings for teachers. One is a baseline training, which covers the basics. This is delivered through a video and is mandatory for the teachers and staff. 

The second training is a simulation for teachers on the weekend. The school shuts everything down, and the teachers get paid for participating. The simulation consists of a skills lesson where they are taught what to do, then get to practice those skills in person. “I enjoyed the practice part of the training where we could actually practice what we learned and get better at it,” Robotics teacher, Lorand Incze said. “They weren’t really judgemental. They were showing us how to do it, and then when you made a mistake, they just made you redo it,” English teacher Moises Martinez said. 

Both teachers noted learning new techniques, such as locking the door with a chair, or even subtle things such as greeting people who look suspicious. “Students would benefit from it [the simulation],” Martinez said. 

Training for students hasn’t happened since the 2018-2019 year, due in part to COVID. “The last training was just before the pandemic and with school back in session we are conducting site threat assessments and those will be built into the next training for students and staff,” Burns said.

One last thing the district has done is hire someone to assist with safety protocols.“The District recently hired a full-time person to assess our emergency planning protocols as well as to work with an outside professional to conduct threat assessments on our campuses,” Burns assured. With the addition of a new member to the district, there will be new training and information provided to both parties in the future. “We have conducted student safety training for years.  The adjustment to those is adding what to do in case of an active intruder.  These have been done recently and they are in the planning stage to take place again.”

With these new and pending improvements that the district and school are putting in place, there is hope that the future will be a lot safer for the people attending Alisal. “Safety is number one. Always,” Garcia said. 

Students and staff hope the district and school will not stop here, but continue to improve on ways to keep students and staff safe.