As students return to Coachella Valley Unified School District campuses for their first day of classes Thursday, they’re being met with notable changes in safety protocols. The revisions come after a series of concerning incidents last spring, in which reported threats of weapons resulted in multiple campus lockdowns.
This academic year, CVUSD has reevaluated its safety measures, opting for a nuanced approach that balances security concerns with the rights of students. One of the most visible changes is the discontinuation of mandatory backpack searches, which were initially implemented after a report of a knife on campus prompted a lockdown.
“This school year, there will not be any backpack searches, unless there is a crisis communication, and we need to find a perpetrator that has been identified to us,” said Dr. Frances Esparza, CVUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.
Dr. Esparza highlighted that new communication protocols have been put in place, with the involvement of parents and community outreach programs. Additionally, specialized security training sessions have been organized, focusing on crisis situations involving weapons.
“We call trainings, especially for crises such as a knife or a gun on campus. And so ensuring that the parents are also being involved in those trainings, but making sure that we’re not violating a student’s right, but making sure that everyone is safe,” Dr. Esparza said.
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Addressing concerns about the effectiveness of these measures, Dr. Esparza stated: “We’re going to do the best that we can to ensure that weapons are not brought onto campus.”
While discussions regarding the implementation of metal detectors and school resource officers have taken place, no definitive plans for these measures are in place for the current academic year.
Last year, a Coachella Valley High School student was found in possession of a loaded handgun, sparking community concern and calls for transparency.
CVHS Principal Socorro Sanchez faced scrutiny after referring to the gun as “an object” that posed no safety threat in an initial communication to parents. In a recent interview with News Channel 3, Principal Sanchez acknowledged the lessons learned from this incident and outlined improved communication strategies.
“Moving forward, it’s focusing on how do we effectively communicate with our community,” Sanchez said.
To enhance crisis communication, a new app named “ParentSquare” will provide parents with updates every 15 minutes, keeping them informed about safety situations. The district aims to foster parental involvement in safety efforts and plans to introduce parents to the new app in the coming days.
Parents can anticipate receiving information about the new “ParentSquare” app from the district in the upcoming days.