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La Cañada school community wraps head around safety, security issues in first task force meeting

La Cañada school community wraps head around safety, security issues in first task force meeting
LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette presides over the inaugural May 24 meeting of the district's safety, security and well-being task force, a 35-member panel that will look to make recommendations about student and campus safety. (Photo by Sara Cardine)

A La Cañada Unified task force formed to make recommendations on campus security, student safety and wellness inaugurally convened before the end of the school year to identify issues and define a scope of work for the year ahead.

The 35-member panel comprises La Cañada Unified School District officials, teachers and staff, students and parents willing to bring their own professional backgrounds in prosecution, security and law enforcement, substance abuse counseling and organizational leadership to the table.

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“This is a very prestigious group, I have to say. I was a little bit overwhelmed and in awe of the applications, looking at people’s commitments and looking at people’s level of expertise,” said LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette, who welcomed task force members to the May 24 inaugural meeting.

Sinnette explained while a series of drug- and crime-related events at the high school in February — and a demand from parents something be done to keep students safe — inspired the formation of the task force, the work of the group would be thoughtful and center around proactive, comprehensive solutions.

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District officials addressed five distinct areas, or subcommittees, they hope to focus on: student and staff training; traffic and parking; campus security; wellness, communication and outreach; and whether or not LCHS should be a closed campus during lunch period.

After describing the mission and vision of the groups, each of which will be led by one school board and one district cabinet member, they asked panelists to sign up for no more than two subcommittees. Those groups will meet more frequently throughout the year and report back to the collective task force, whose next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 27.

School Board President Kaitzer Puglia encouraged student members to sign up for the closed campus group, so they could ask the wider student body about the effects of potentially increasing campus security at the cost of student independence.

“Seriously, it’s a big issue,” Puglia said. “Students, we really need your feedback on this one.”

La Cañada High School junior Madeline Odell said she applied for the task force because she’s feeling increasingly unsafe at school. Odell signed up for the closed campus and the wellness, communication and outreach subcommittees and said she hopes to bring students’ perspectives to the wider group.

Fellow junior Adin Ryssdal attended multiple board meetings held after February’s incidents at the high school and wanted to be part of a more solutions-based group.

“[Earlier meetings] just felt a bit radical to me, and I wanted to work to kind of soften the ideas everybody had then,” he said. “I felt it was a bit much.”

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