Educators, childcare providers, law enforcement & fire officials, and school safety experts convene for countywide School Safety Symposium
A countywide School Safety Symposium brought together hundreds of representatives from early care and preschool centers, private schools, public and charter schools, school districts, higher education institutions, law enforcement and fire officials, mental health and county agencies, and the Office of Emergency Management, among others.
Hosted by the Santa Barbara County Education Office over three days in the past month, participants came together to study strategies for preventing and responding to campus violence. Sessions focused on an array of topics. For example:
FBI Special Agent Jeffrey R. Cugno described and examined the profile of mass school violence perpetrators.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office psychologist Dr. Cherylynn Lee presented strategies for recognizing threats and responding to concerning behaviors.
A panel of leaders from education, law enforcement, and the District Attorney’s Office shared insights as they walked through a campus threat scenario.
Cross-agency teams reviewed legal requirements and worked together to discuss school safety plans.
Representatives from the I Love U Guys Foundation shared first-hand accounts of school shooting incidents, and led a training on theStandard Response Protocols (SRPs).
The SRPs – which include five emergency response actions: Hold, Secure, Lockdown, Evacuate, and Shelter – have now been adopted by all school districts and law enforcement agencies across Santa Barbara County.
“The purpose of this Symposium series was to provide our school safety teams and law enforcement partners with actionable strategies and ongoing resources to prepare for and navigate through the unthinkable,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido. “Education leaders and our agency partners from across the county were able to engage in conversations and expand their awareness of violence prevention, response, and recovery. This convening has helped us to lay the foundation for the ongoing focus, coordination, and collaboration we will continue to prioritize countywide.”
During the Symposium, Salcido announced the hiring of SBCEO’s first School Safety Liaison. Dennis Thomas, who previously served as a Sheriff’s Resource Deputy in Lompoc schools, will support schools and childcare centers in disaster response, crisis management, and safety plan development. He will also serve as a liaison between law enforcement, SBCEO, and area schools before, during, and after emergencies.
Symposium attendee Anna Scharfeld, principal of Hope School, shared, “It’s reassuring to see our county working together across education and law enforcement sectors and using a common language and safety response protocols. This is a significant step towards ensuring our students’ safety in our county schools.”
Holly Edds, Superintendent of Orcutt Union School District, who attended the Symposium with members of her team, said the sessions were invaluable. “This provided our district the opportunity to learn from cutting-edge research and national and local law enforcement experts as we seek to improve safety measures on our campuses and across our district. Our team learned valuable information that will help us not only prepare for critical issues in campus safety, but more importantly prevent them from happening in the first place.”
Betsy Miller, a trainer from the “I Love You Guys” Foundation who traveled to Santa Barbara for the Symposium, applauded the work underway in Santa Barbara County.
“SBCEO’s Symposium series is a good model and lays the groundwork for ensuring that everyone has the same understanding and is responding and communicating with a common language,” Miller said. “Having all of these perspectives and key partners in the room is critical.”
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Lt. Joseph Schmidt shared with attendees that his department is actively training on the new Standard Response Protocols: “This collaborative opportunity has offered Sheriff’s office team members an opportunity to meet with and actively participate in planning for the safety of campuses throughout Santa Barbara County.”
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office psychologist Dr. Cherylynn Lee, who was also a panelist and speaker, shared, “I am proud to live and work in a community that prioritizes caring for our schools and children in an evidenced-based and compassionate way. Having shared language for navigating threats of targeted violence is imperative so that public safety can interact with the school system in real-time to prevent these acts from occurring. As a mom of two young children and an employee of our Sheriff’s Office, I want to thank all of those who attended the training, and a big thank you to the Santa Barbara County Education Office for making it possible.”
Salcido shared with attendees that the Symposium series – along with the countywide adoption of the SRPs and hiring of a new School Safety Liaison – puts the infrastructure in place for the creation of a countywide Safe Schools Coalition.
In support of this work, SBCEO created a new School Safety webpage: a hub of information including templates for school safety plans, bilingual materials for promoting the new common emergency response language, and an array of training resources and updates.