School board OKs new safety measures

Newport-Mesa's school board Tuesday approved its first new security measures since December's school shooting in Newtown, Conn. sparked the district to reevaluate.

As part of the package, staff will develop a "Run, Hide, Act" curriculum that would include distracting, delaying or charging an armed intruder.

Asst. Supt. Susan Astarita explained Tuesday what Newport-Mesa's curriculum would teach in case a scenario similar to Sandy Hook were to unfold in Costa Mesa or Newport Beach.

"What this will do is allow staff members that identify a threat of gunfire or violence to act." Astarita said. "They will have permission to run if they need to. They will be training their staff members and students to all respond in a very proactive manner. There will be strategies about where they could hide and then how to act."

In worst-case scenarios, the training would including distracting or overwhelming a shooter by throwing objects or charging.

Board member Walt Davenport broke into the presentation with a concern.

"I guess I have the sense that maybe it's a little aggressive," he said.

A task force of police personnel, school psychologists and other school staff vetted the recommendations, Astarita said, and she noted, "We struggled with that, Mr. Davenport, to be honest."

Astarita emphasized an age-appropriate approach that may look more like a conversation with students than a drill.

The school board ultimately unanimously approved the item.

Board member Martha Fluor asked that staff develop a proposal to implement an "If you see something, say something" campaign that encourages students to report anything suspicious.

"[Run, Hide, Act] addresses some very … anomalous situations. 'If you see something, say something,' addresses school culture. It addresses personal responsibility," she said. "I would like to see us allot some money to get those posters into the classroom and establish an anonymous tip line."

Board members also OK'd increasing the number of lockdown drills practiced each year from two to four or six.

In addition, the district mandated school staff to wear ID whenever on campus, and a pilot program that helps identify students at Costa Mesa High School will spread.

At intermediate and high school campuses, security personnel and administrators will have hand-held devices with student information and ID pictures loaded and continually updated.

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck

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