Audit: Calif. K-12 Schools Ill-Prepared for Gun Violence, Active Shooter
While required to have an overall safety plan, California State law does not require public schools to have an active shooter plan.
A California State Auditor report released last Thursday suggests that California K-12 public schools are inadequately prepared for potential incidents of gun violence in its schools, particularly related to active shooters.
The audit looked at 29 safety plans from three school districts and three county offices of education, according to the Daily Cal, and found that California State law does not require public schools to have an active shooter response plan.
Lack of money is blamed for the ending of a partnership between the state departments of education and justice targeted to help local schools create active shooter plans. The audit also found that the education department was not checking to see that local agencies actually had a plan in place.
“Districts and county offices have provided their schools with inadequate oversight, resulting in the schools’ potential reliance on insufficient or nonexistent safety plans and creating an environment for inadequate emergency response,” reads the audit.
For example, sixteen safety plans were reviewed from the Kern, Placer and San Bernardino county offices, and from the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Of the 16 examined, 14 lacked procedures to notify teachers of potentially dangerous students in their classroom.
The audit says that these types of omissions “increase the risk that the schools will be unprepared to respond to emergencies, or that the schools will fail to foster an environment where students can safely learn.”
Offices, Districts Argue Audit is Inaccurate
The Kern county office and the San Bernardino City Unified School District says its schools fall under the small school’s exception state law, which does not require the review and approval of safety plans for each of its school sites.
The Placer County office says safety procedures which were identified as missing in the audit were available elsewhere.
Charles Burress, a spokesperson for the Berkeley Unified School District, also responded to the audit, arguing that his district does have a comprehensive active shooter plan. Burress says BUSD uses ALICE protocol. Burress says each school in the district has fire, earthquake and lockdown drills monthly in elementary schools and four times per year in middle and high schools.
In some instances in the audit, schools filed the exact same plan year after year while others submitted nothing at all.
In reference to the December 2015 terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Medical Center in San Bernardino, the audit says, “However, even though several of its schools were in close proximity to the regional center, in the years following the incident, San Bernardino City Unified has not implemented a process to ensure that its schools submit annual safety plans. The need for greater oversight of these plans by the district was highlighted in an after-action report for the 2015 incident, in which 54 percent of the district’s school and department sites reported the need for a clear lockdown protocol, as well as practices and drills.”
California State Law Requirements for Public School Safety Plans
Although there is no California State law requiring a safety plan related specifically to active shooters, the state law does require public schools to follow a multi-step process to develop an overall safety plan.
Each year, every public school’s council, typically made up of the school’s principal, teachers, and parents, is required to develop a school safety plan.
The council consults with a representative from a law enforcement agency to support them in writing and developing a safety plan.
The council is then required to hold a public meeting at the school to discuss the safety plan before it is adopted. Following the public meeting, schools submit their plans to the district or county office to get approval, which must be done by March 1 every year.
Districts and county offices must also notify the California Department of Education by October 15 of any school that has not developed a safety plan, which the audit found most failed to do.
“If CDE had conducted such a review, it would have found numerous instances – as we did – in which districts and county offices failed to report schools that did not submit plans,” says the audit.
Additional Statistics Provided by Audit
The audit found that school-based violence and active shooter incidents have been on the rise in California school districts and county offices over the last five school years.
In California districts during the 2012-2013 school year, there were 9 reported threats. During the 2016-2017 school year, there were 27.
The audit also found that K-12 schools and institutes of higher education are the second most common location for active shooting incidents.
From 2000-2015, 22 percent of active shooting incidents occurred in educational settings, compared to 44 percent in commercial settings.