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Huntington Beach district works to boost school safety through new federal security assessment

Huntington Beach district works to boost school safety through new federal security assessment
Students work on projects in a visual animation class at Dwyer Middle School in Huntington Beach in 2014. The school is among the campuses where the Huntington Beach City School District is using a federal school safety assessment. (File Photo)

The Huntington Beach City School District is the first in the nation to implement a federal school safety assessment developed in the wake of the deadly shooting this year at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

During a news conference Wednesday at Ethel Dwyer Middle School, the district announced its efforts to enhance safety at its nine campuses, highlighting the use of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2018 school security guide for kindergarten through 12th grade.

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“Unfortunately, it is no longer enough to provide an excellent education. We must now also provide an excellent educational environment, which includes keeping our students safe,” district Supt. Gregg Haulk said.

The Department of Homeland Security guide, released in July, is meant to provide best practices for measures to address gun violence and other threats in schools.

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“After the Parkland shooting ... our threats and issues that came up at schools skyrocketed,” Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy said. “Thankfully, none of those [issues] turned into anything with any significance in Huntington Beach … but we also believe there were things that were prevented.”

Brian Keith, a protective security advisor for DHS, said it has been working with the U.S. Department of Education to advise school resource officers, administrators and staff in addressing not only emergency management but also physical security at schools.

“We were able to develop a tool similar to what we’d use at local shopping mall, but this would be very specific to K-12 schools,” Keith said. “We’re doing an assessment today on [Dwyer Middle School]. … Anything that we come up with today as an option for consideration will be used to enhance the security of the campus.”

Those options could include things such as the placement of cameras on campus, additional fencing or new technologies in alarm systems.

The Huntington Beach City School District Safety Committee, composed of volunteers, will continue to participate in assessments, along with partners including the Huntington Beach police and fire departments.

The school district also has partnered with Frank Quiambao, director of the National Education Safety and Security Institute at UCLA.

“The goal is for us to use that tool [from DHS] and then to train people in the schools that could learn how to do their own professional assessments,” Quiambao said.

The noncredit courses through the institute include topics such as threat assessments, emergency planning, bullying mitigation and evaluating student mental health.

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