Safety presentation becomes praise

Estancia High School's new Batman and Robin delivered a campus security plan to parents Monday night.

Assistant Principal Mike Sciacca and Principal Kirk Bauermeister were introduced as the caped duo because they subdued a father who allegedly threatened them with a BB gun Feb. 15.

The parent, 45-year-old Michael McHugh, was trying to remove his daughter from class even though the family had an active restraining order against him, police said.

When administrators stopped McHugh, he allegedly threatened to shoot them. Sciacca and Bauermeister then wrestled the handgun away not knowing it was replica weapon, school officials said.

McHugh has since pleaded not guilty to one felony count each of assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, threat of injury to a school official and possession of a weapon on school grounds, and one misdemeanor count of contempt of court.

After a presentation on new safety procedures, parents asked Sciacca and Bauermeister about what happened that day, but mostly the standing-room crowd peppered them with praise.

"I feel safe knowing we have Robin and Batman in front, and we have staff that checks people," said Estancia PTSA President Vicki Snell. "They don't just let people go through."

Bauermeister said everyone from administrative staff to students deserves praise.

At his first point of contact with Estancia, an attendance staffer identified McHugh as someone unauthorized to pick up his daughter, he said.

The student's family had notified Estancia of an active restraining order, Bauermeister said.

"We're only as good as the information you disclose to us," school board member Martha Fluor told the audience.

Estancia's odd campus layout also played a part in keeping students safe, Bauermeister said.

The school is completely indoors, with atrium-like hallways that can be separated by gates leading to classrooms.

Although many of those classrooms don't have traditional doors from the hallway, they do have doors to the outside that remain locked during the school day.

About half of the students on campus were able to flee the building and hide out on the baseball field during the lockdown, the principal said.

That evacuation fits with the district's new guidelines for responding to threats.

They encourage people to flee if they can, hide, or engage an intruder if there are no other options.

Sciacca said the guidelines encourage decision-making over contingencies.

"What we have to do is train adults and then give them the ability to make the best decision on behalf of our sons and daughters," he said.

Monday was students' first day of class after a weeklong recess that started the day of the lockdown.

Teachers will keep an eye on students and refer them to counseling staff if they show any lingering anxiety, especially the half-dozen students who witnessed Bauermeister and Sciacca take down the intruder, the principal said.

"Know this," Costa Mesa Police Chief Tom Gazsi told parents. "What you saw your staff do here on Friday demonstrates the care and the love these guys have for your kids."

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck

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