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O.C. grand jury: ‘Some schools are not as safe as they could be’

O.C. grand jury: ‘Some schools are not as safe as they could be’
The Costa Mesa High School football team practices at Mustangs Field. The Orange County grand jury told area school districts Thursday to report within 90 days on how they have studied and improved safety at their campuses. (File Photo)

The Orange County grand jury told area school districts Thursday to report within 90 days on how they have studied and improved safety at their campuses.

Jurors specifically recommended that all school districts require their schools to conduct site safety assessments, identify security deficiencies, determine what is needed and recommend improvements to control potential risks.

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"Every student, teacher and parent is entitled to a safe school," the grand jury said in a statement. "Every school district in Orange County wants to ensure this. But wide disparities exist among schools in the way they control access to their campuses, and some schools are not as safe as they could be."

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District had already decided last month to conduct a risk assessment at its 32 campuses and has completed at least a third of the visits, according to Deputy Supt. Russell Lee-Sung, who is spearheading the study and is looking to strengthen partnerships with the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach police departments.

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Newport-Mesa spokeswoman Annette Franco said Friday that "our district has received a copy of the [grand jury] report and we intend to respond by the deadline. We are pleased to already have many of their recommendations in place and in progress."

Ocean View School District Supt. Carol Hansen said the Huntington Beach-based district is reviewing the grand jury's findings.

"We will address the grand jury's recommendations before the summer deadline," Hansen said. "Our board of trustees and district staff are proud of the safety measures we have put in place and of our recent updates, including a comprehensive safety perimeter fencing plan that was adopted in March 2018. Additionally, our teachers and other staff are trained in 'run, hide, fight' strategies, in cooperation with our local law enforcement. And we are now teaching these important safety measures to our students. Our board of trustees sets a high priority on student and staff safety."

Fountain Valley School District Supt. Mark Johnson said his district received the report and will closely review its findings and recommendations over the next several weeks.

Coast Community College District spokeswoman Letitia Clark said that "although this report speaks to the K-12 system directly, continuous dialogue about school safety is important to the entire community."

"The Coast Community College District takes safety on its campuses seriously," she said. "After reviewing the grand jury report, we can confirm that our colleges and district offices have processes in place that address a majority of the security measure priorities outlined in the report."

Officials from the Laguna Beach Unified, Huntington Beach City and Huntington Beach Union High school districts did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

DANIEL LANGHORNE is a contributor to Times Community News.

Twitter: @DanielLanghorne

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