Salinas schools, city officials, & law enforcement reiterate schools are safe

Discuss safety plans, arming teachers and walkouts

Salinas school officials meet to discuss school safety

SALINAS, Calif. - Nearly one month after the Parkland, FL massacre, school leaders from Alisal Union, Santa Rita Union, Salinas City Elementary and Salinas Union High School Districts outlined their safety plans and tackled hot button issues such as arming teachers and student walkouts.

On Monday, the four superintendents outlined what their districts are doing and reiterated to parents that their schools are safe. The schools have measures such as fencing, secure buildings and entry points and security cameras.

"Those surveillance cameras have been extremely helpful in tracking back any incidents that have occurred. If we do suspect an intruder on campus, we are able to go back and review video,” said Martha Martinez, Superintendent of Salinas City Elementary.

The districts also discussed social and emotional support for students.

Then there's the day-to-day safety protocols, such as signing in when visiting school campuses. More serious safety protocols were also discussed. For example, ALICE training which stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.”

Dr. Hector Rico of Alisal Union Elementary School said, "That's a very specific form of training, that's more modern thinking. It's a more proactive approach to intruders than reactive or passive. So instead of just locking yourself down, you take active steps, you barricade yourself and if need be you exit and run away and in extreme cases you have to defend yourself instead of being passive victims."

Intruder training can be a scary thought but it's a lesson that has to be taught these days.

"We live in a very sensitive time having to teach kids more than just reading, writing and arthimitic and social media and all of those things. We've having to teach them as well about how to keep themselves safe in school, beyond what we've had to do before. So it's not just a fire drill or an earthquake drill, but we've moved onto having to teach them about active shooter situations because things that have happened around the country over the past 5-6 years. So I think it's a sad time when we have to take time away from them learning and preparing themselves for a careers and future, whatever that might be. When we're taking time away, then spend time training them on how to deal with active shooters, I think it's a difficult time for kids and I think it scares them, I think it's frighting, it creates fear but at the time time, it's our role to keep them prepared, to put some plans in place in case something tragic does happen on a campus."said Salinas Union High School Superintendent Dan Burns.

Just weeks ago, the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers told KION they were against the proposed plan of arming teachers, and that feeling was echoed by school officials Monday.

Monterey County Superintendent of Schools, Nancy Kotowski said, "Teachers have a very special relationship with their students, one with caring for them and nurturing them and to put a gun in their hands is not going to be something that's going to promote the relationship between the student and the teacher and solve that problem at the classroom level."

The debate comes nearly one month after the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida and students across the country are planning rallies and walkouts.

Alisal Union wants to use that day as a lesson to students to explain why it's a big deal in the media and why they are talking about it.

Salinas Union High School plans to give students an open forum.

"Our theme for the day is campus safety and the safety for each other on campus and we're not promoting our kids leave campus, it's only a 17 minute period of time so we've provided opportunities for them to participate in civil discourse,” said Burns.

Burns said students who walk out of campus that day will get an unexcused absence on their attendance record. They don't plan to take any disciplinary action unless a student does something beyond just leaving campus.

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