In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at North Park Elementary School, visitors must now undergo a background check before being allowed on the San Bernardino campus and will be barred from meeting with staff or students during school hours.
School officials announced the enhanced security measures to a crowd of roughly 250 people at Bob Holcomb Elementary on Thursday evening.
Parents cheered and applauded after learning that only people who have cleared a background check and have been fingerprinted will be allowed on campus, said Maria Garcia, a spokeswoman for San Bernardino City Unified School District.
School officials will also bar visitors from venturing beyond the main office.
“There will be no interruptions during the school day unless there’s a pre-established meeting. [People] can meet before or after school hours, but there will be no interruption during students’ instructional time,” Garcia said.
In cases where someone has a legitimate reason to go beyond the office during the school day, they will have to provide a valid driver’s license that will be scanned. An image of the ID will be printed and visitors will have to wear it while on campus, Garcia said.
Parents who attended Thursday’s special meeting said they were willing to stop bringing forgotten lunches or school projects to their children if it meant an increase in security, according to Garcia.
The new measures apply only to North Park, at least for now, according to officials.
“Enhanced security across the district is something that is being considered, but it will not go into effect Monday,” Garcia said. “The kind of enhanced security we hope to roll out districtwide will take more time and resources.”
Officials said that parents also have the option to transfer students to independent study, but Garcia said that no one has taken that option yet.
The visitor restrictions come at a time when students and parents are still struggling to understand how anyone could open fire on a special-education teacher and two of her pupils.
The gunman, Cedric Anderson, was the estranged husband of teacher Karen Smith. On Monday, Anderson had tried to enter the school through several doors, including a back door, but was recognized by a school staffer, authorities say. When Anderson told the employee that he had to drop something off for his wife, he was allowed to walk unescorted to her classroom.
Gunfire erupted in classroom B1 at 10:27 a.m. By the time it was over, Smith was dead and Anderson had taken his own life. Jonathan Martinez, an 8-year-old student who was standing near Smith, was mortally wounded as well.
A second student, Nolan Brandy, 9, was wounded. He was released from the hospital Friday.
Classes are set to resume Monday, and the school will have crisis counselors and additional personnel to help students and teachers.
According to officials, the front door to the school will be permanently locked and a new buzzer entry system and camera will be installed outside the main entrance. If parents come to the school during the day, they will need to press the buzzer, and a school secretary will be able to see the person’s image on a screen and determine whether to allow them inside.
National experts in school security say the most efficient ways to prevent school shootings are to properly train school employees and restrict access to campuses.
Michael Dorn, executive director of Georgia-based Safe Havens International, said schools can also minimize risk by not posting teachers’ names on doors and not posting student artwork with their names at classroom entrances.
Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, said that one of the best practices to ensure school safety comes down to dedicating more time to training teachers and staff.
“The best line of defense is well-trained staff,” Trump said.
“I have school administrators call and say we need to do something about security. I tell them we need at least four hours to go over basic practices. In response, they tell me I only have one hour.”
He also suggests that if someone comes to visit a relative or staff during school hours, the staff member should meet the visitor at the front office, rather than allowing the visitor to walk inside the building.
At the meeting Thursday, grief counselors were on hand to talk to parents and children.
“We want to remind parents that if at any point they need emotional support, it will be available,” Garcia said.
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6:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with information on the wounded boy and quotes from a security expert.
This article was originally published at 4:05 p.m.