TUSD discusses school safety in wake of mass shootings

TUSD discusses school safety in wake of mass shootings
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - In a moment of crisis and chaos, the Tucson Unified School District governing board says it is prepared.

At least, that's what was presented at a special meeting Tuesday night, March 6.

During a special information session, involving two items revolving around school safety and weapons on campus, the TUSD Governing Board was given a presentation by School Safety Director Jeffrey Coleman.

The presentation, titled "Emergency Preparedness: Overview of Planning and Response," gave attendees a chance to see what's being done for safety purposes on TUSD campuses.

Campuses, like nearby Rincon and University High Schools at 5th Street and Arcadia Avenue, where mother Mindy Harper picked up her daughters from school.

She knows that when she visits, or even steps foot on campus, she has to go through a rigorous check in process.

"I think it's good. I have no problem with it. Especially in light of all the news these days," Harper said. "Everyone always says, 'Oh, it would never happen to us.' But you hear that constantly. I think that it never would and I always hope that it never would. But I know everyone in Florida was saying the same thing."

The board's discussion, including an item presented by board member Rachael Sedgwick regarding the policy against weapons in schools, comes in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting where 17 people were killed on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus.

This is the world in which Harper's sophomore daughter, Tate, has been indoctrinated since first stepping foot on the University High School grounds.

"It was a whole new experience," sophomore Tate Harper said. "I knew about how there were school shootings at colleges and high schools and stuff. Now that I'm at high school I'm more conscious of that."

It's why Sedgwick presented the Weapons In Schools item on the agenda, hoping the board will take some time to review it and make changes where necessary.

The governing board policy has not been updated since 2012, and has not been reviewed since 2013 by the then-superintendent.

"It's time for us to consider it. This is a good time since everyone is talking about guns in schools," she said.

Sedgwick said any policy changes and conversation are just getting started.

"We want to assure people. At least, in my mind, there is no magic bullet. There is no one thing that we can do. It's a process. We need to have systems in place. We need to be ready all the time and conscious," Sedgwick said.

Harper explained that she hopes educators see the warning signs and take threats seriously.

At Tuesday's meeting, Coleman explained the threat assessment plan the district has in place.

"Threats can originate from one person to another or, can be transmitted via social media and other electronic means. TUSD is implementing protocols for assessing and managing threats to school safety," the packet stated.

Harper applauded the fact that she's at least always informed with campus alerts by way of phone calls, text messages, or emails.

It's the world she'll accept, so long as the school does its part.

"I feel my children are safe," she said. "I really do. I mean, you have to just to send them out of the house every day."

Tuesday night's meeting was simply an informational presentation with only the board asking a few questions.

However, TUSD wants to hear from the public. They have scheduled two public forums on Wednesday, March 7, and Monday, March 12, to allow anyone to discuss school safety with law enforcement and education professionals.

According to a public posting on the TUSD website, the forums will address, "concerns regarding the gun violence that continues to occur on campuses across the United States, how the district prepares for emergencies, questions we receive when school threats occur, and how we engage local agencies threats before/during/after such instances."

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