We’re live from the theater at Irvine High School, where the Irvine Town Hall Meeting for School Safety is set to begin in 30 minutes.
Tonight’s program will be recorded by the City of Irvine, and though it won’t air live, it will be shown regularly beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday on ICTV-Channel 30 for Cox cable subscribers; Channel 99 for U-Verse subscribers; and through the City’s website at cityofirvine.org.
[Update: A video of the presentation is now up and running on the City’s website. You can access it here.]
We’ll also be posting updates throughout the evening here on the IUSD NewsFlash.
Craig Reem, the City of Irvine’s director of public affairs and communications, introduced Mayor Steven Choi, who led a moment of silence and offered an overview of the program, assuring that the City and IUSD are “doing our best for the safety of our schools, as well as for our community at large.”
“When I think about last week, there is so much about this tragedy that we can’t explain,” Mayor Choi said. “However, we know what we can do. Irvine’s City Council has for years focused upon the safety of this community and the safety of our schools, where our youngest and most defenseless citizens gather every day to grow in positive ways.
“So, our purpose is twofold tonight: to discuss our preparation and our prevention, because we are all partners, each supporting the other. The City has a role to play, the schools have a role to play and you as parents have a role to play.”
IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker took the stage next, presenting information on the district’s comprehensive efforts to promote safety and security. As a father of four, Walker said he was particularly moved by the tragic events in Newtown.
“I have 29,000 other children as well, and of course those are the students of IUSD,” he said.
The district, Walker said, is committed to not just crisis response, but proactive emergency preparedness. There are emergency plans in place for schools as well as the district, covering a range of scenarios, and staff regularly participates in drills and simulations, reflecting on its practices through multiple committees.
“I want to emphasize that these efforts are ongoing, and they’ve been integral to our core mission,” Walker said.
IUSD will continue to add emergency preparedness resources to its website, just as staff will continue to refine the district’s strategies based on the latest information, he said.
“We will reflect, we will analyze and we will evolve as necessary,” he said.
Tustin Unified Superintendent Gregory Franklin spoke next. TUSD administers four schools in Irvine.
Franklin noted that TUSD has safe campuses because of the vigilance of students, parents and staff.
“What we take away from all of this is a review of all of our procedures, but really talking to students about being accountable to each other,” he said.
Irvine Police Chief Dave Maggard is on stage now talking about his department’s partnership with the community and its effective “geographic policing” strategy, which assigns officers to specific parts of the city.
“We believe this allows for relationships to form and a higher level of service to be provided,” he said.
GPS tracking systems, intersections with signal-preemptive technology for emergency vehicles and state-of-the-art equipment in patrol vehicles are among the resources that benefit public safety.
Maggard said six School Resource Officers, who are sworn police officers, provide support at each of the high schools, and regularly patrol Irvine middle schools. Those officers have specialized training for critical incidents, he said.
Special Weapons and Tactics members also have exceptional skills and training to respond to an emergency anywhere in the city.
Maggard said his department has worked extensively with IUSD to provide emergency training at every school.
“Our training program has been recognized throughout the state as a model program,” he said.
Irvine Police Lt. Dave Klug is speaking in more detail about IPD’s School Crisis Response Training, which covers such topics as lockdowns, teacher empowerment and how to find the nearest, safest place to retreat from a threat.
Klug said teachers and staff develop specific plans of action that apply the information they’ve learned from their training. Ultimately, staff members participate in lockdown drills, which are taken very seriously, before reflecting on the keys to success.
By the way, we can report that it’s a packed house. The Irvine High theater holds about 300, and it’s standing-room only.
Chief Maggard is now fielding questions from audience members, who were encouraged to submit them on index cards provided before the meeting. Here are a few:
What regulations are in place for carrying guns in places where children and families gather?
Carrying weapons in public in the state of California is generally against the law unless an individual has a concealed weapons permit or is otherwise acting in an official capacity, such as an armored car driver, Maggard said. There are even more restrictive laws covering areas in and around schools, as well as stricter penalties for bringing weapons onto school grounds, he added.
Are police present at Irvine schools daily? If not, how far are they from schools?
Six school resource officers and three D.A.R.E officers spend each day at our local schools, and other officers frequently visit Irvine campuses for a variety of reasons, the chief said. Additionally, the department’s geographic policing strategy ensures that officers are always within close proximity. “Going to an Irvine campus is nothing new for an Irvine Police officer,” Maggard said. “These are the tenets that we’ve been practicing for decades. It was what this police department was built upon.”
How quickly can Irvine Police respond to a violent situation at a school?
“If we receive word there is a violent confrontation going on at a school campus, our response will be rapid and robust,” Maggard said. “Every police officer that is listening to their radio at that time would be rapidly deploying to that school, including yours truly.”
Have we looked at the non-gated schools in terms of safety?
Maggard said safety considerations can be slightly different for each school, and specific layouts are factored into the training curriculum for staff. That said, it is even more important to be aware of what’s happening in and around each school “The best defense that we can have in any school, regardless of the layout, regardless of the physical security plan, are people who are looking out for suspicious activity,” the chief said, including strangers and suspicious vehicles in the parking lot.
Mayor Choi has concluded the evening with another moment of silence for the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary School. City, police and school officials are now speaking individually with parents and community members.