A new Turlock Unified School District safety plan, adopted Tuesday by TUSD Trustees, will raise fence heights at school campuses and require junior high and high school students to carry ID badges.
The Comprehensive School Safety Plan's adoption follows months spent examining safety concerns and procedures. The new plan will lead to higher levels of security at all TUSD campuses, district staff says, starting in the fall.
“The number one thing we realized is that vigilance is the most important thing to solving some of the safety issues that are out there,” said TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor. “We want to keep a common sense approach to keep our sites safe.”
Although all TUSD staff and teachers are required to wear identification badges while on school campuses already, the new safety plan will now require all students in grades 7 through 12 to wear ID badges as well.
Other safety measures will include extending fence heights from 4 feet to 6 feet, ensuring that all school fences are locked during school hours, and installing signs on each campus directing visitors to the main office.
Although visitors are currently required to sign in to the school office upon arrival to attain a visitor’s badge, not all visitors do so. Many days, parents will walk on to their child’s campus without a visitor’s badge and be able to walk into a classroom without being asked for proper identification. The district believes that by requiring identification of everyone on campus, any intruders who do not belong there will be easier to point out.
“I’m sure some of our staff and parents won’t be too thrilled about having to ask them to see their badges, but as long as we tell parents to be expecting this, I think it will be okay,” said TUSD Trustee Tami Muniz. “It’s sad that we have to do this, but in our day and age it’s needed.”
With a focus primarily on being watchful and aware of the campus’ surroundings, the new safety plan will also decrease vandalism and discipline problems at school sites, TUSD says.
“The key is to have the adults and everyone vigilant, and looking for people that shouldn’t be there,” said TUSD Trustee Frank Lima. “Our high schools already do a lot of this, but we need to make sure it is district-wide.”
The district began to look at school safety following the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.
Around that time, Turlock resident and law enforcement officer Vince Hooper visited his daughter’s elementary school to examine safety measures implemented there. Hooper was able to walk around the campus during school hours without being questioned by school staff, and videotaped the experience while pointing out other safety concerns such as an unlocked fence.
Hooper addressed the TUSD Board of Trustees at a January meeting, requesting that the district create tighter safety measures at each school site. TUSD then began a series of meetings with a team comprised of staff, parents, community members and the Turlock Police and Fire Departments to improve safety plans for all TUSD campuses.
“Safety is always a priority. A top priority,” said TUSD Trustee Harinder Grewal. “It needs to be ongoing, and we need to communicate with parents that this is safety, and safety always comes first.”