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O.C. Schools Say They're Prepared for the Unthinkable

In response to Friday's attack in Connecticut, local officials say they have plans in place to deal with similar emergencies.

Although shooting rampages are rare, it’s only natural to ask: What if it happened here?

“The shooting incident at an elementary school in Connecticut today is a senseless and horrific tragedy that will rightfully raise concerns in communities around the world about school safety," said a message that went out to parents from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. "This is a confusing situation that affects us all in different ways. Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s principal with any questions or concerns."

That situation in Newtown, Conn., is still fluid as new details emerge, some unconfirmed. But . 

As the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, it horrified the nation and left parents questioning how they can protect their children.

Schools are perceived as safe places for kids, although few have security measures in place against the kind of violence that happened at Sandy Hook School.

Procedures at the Connecticut School

The school's doors are locked at 9:30 a.m., and visitors are required to sign in, according to the Sandy Hook School website. When violence erupted Friday morning, the school went on lockdown, according to media reports. That means teachers and staff locked students inside classrooms rather than risk evacuation.

Stories of heroic teachers and school staffers at the school have emerged. One teacher locked all her students in a closet to protect them, the Huffington Post reported.

Parents were notified by a reverse 911 call that went out to all Newtown public school families, NBC reported.

Did It Almost Happen Here?

Newtown may be far away, but Irvine is not. A UC Irvine professor was arrested in late July before carrying out what authorities say was a plot to shoot, in his own words, 200 students at an Irvine high school. Some might say we got lucky that time.

So, what are our local school districts and law enforcement doing locally?

“Our schools are safe places,” Laguna Beach Unified School District Superintendent Sherine Smith said in an email to parents Friday. “Our school staff works with parents, local police and fire departments, emergency responders and hospitals to keep your children safe,” she wrote, adding that parents can help in the efforts, too. Be observant and let the principal know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous, or frightened."

Los Alamitos Unified School District – which serves Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Rossmoor – is passionate about protecting students and preventing future violence, so much that they've created a school Violence Prevention and Response Task Force earlier this year, said Superintendent Sherri Kropp.

"We are prepared," Kropp said."You have to stay vigilant."

Kropp added that, even before the shooting, the district's school board was considering adding more security cameras to local schools.

Newport-Mesa wanted parents to know there that "we are forever dedicated towards the safety of our children and staff," officials said in a statement, adding that today is an opportunity to reflect and shore up our campus visitor practices and protocols. 

"All school sites have emergency plans in place and they are practiced," according to the statement. "In the event of a Newport-Mesa emergency, we would exercise our capacity to immediately notify all families via our phone all call system, Schoolloop webmail, websites and social media."

At Capo Unified and Beyond

Capistrano Unified, the largest school district in OC Patch territory, serving South Orange County, released a small statement Friday afternoon:

A natural response to school tragedies is an increased concern for the safety of one’s own family. You should know that the Capistrano Unified School District works collaboratively with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and other agencies, to protect our students, staff, and school communities.

At Saddleback Valley Unified, which serves Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Lake Forest and Laguna Hills, officials were trying to help parents and students process what happened.

“Our principals and staff are working with students and families as we all work to process this tragedy,” said Tammy Blakely, assistant to the superintendent.

The district does have an emergency plan in place in case the unthinkable happens.

“We work together in SVUSD to have emergency plans for the district and for our schools,” she said. “Our priority is the safety of our students. We will continue to implement and refine safety procedures, and we will do everything we can to maintain the safety and security of our schools.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, according to City News Service, the Los Angeles Police Department is beefing up patrols around schools, just to be on the safe side.

See more coverage on Newtown Patch:

  • Patch Exclusive: 'It Wasn't Me' Man Named as Shooter Writes
  • Report: Gunman's Mother Was Target and School's Kindergarten Teacher
  • Reaction: Sandy Hook School Shooting
  • Police Raid Sandy Hook Home Hours After Shooting
Shripathi Kamath December 14, 2012 at 10:27 PM
"Meanwhile, in Los Ang*****les, according to City News Service, the Los Angeles Police Department is beefing up patrols around schools, just to be on the safe side." Hmm, a gunman goes shooting in Conn. and patrols have to be beefed up here because "safe side?" Why don't we beef them up permanently? Y'know, "just to be on the safe side?" "A UC Irvine professor was arrested in late July before he had time to carry out his plan to shoot, in his own words, 200 students at an Irvine high school. Some might say we got lucky that time." And some might say that no charges were filed resulting from those emails mailed to... well no one really he threatened in them. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/reinscheid-368113-school-high.html "Orange County prosecutors have used the emails to keep Reinscheid behind bars without bail on the arson charges, but the emails themselves have not resulted in any charges." But it "Fits the Narrative" (Is it not too soon to talk about this? So I am getting told everywhere else on The Internets)
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 14, 2012 at 10:42 PM
OCSD just released that they're upping patrols around schools, too. Have the update in a moment.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 14, 2012 at 11:33 PM
added. go here: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/oc-sheriff-increases-school-patrols-in-wake-of-conn-shootings
MFriedrich December 14, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Connecticut has a significant hunting culture. I compare it to a mini-Wisconsin/Minnesota for both deer and waterfowl hunting. With that Connecticut has arguably the most liberal (and dumbest) gun laws in the union: "No state permit (in Connecticut) is required for the purchase or possession of rifles or shotguns." We should be somewhat surprised it took so long for a gun tragedy to occur there. Except wait, similar gun rampages have occurred before: http://www.courant.com/community/manchester/hc-manchester-working-0804-20100803,0,6991544.story Now after young children and teachers are gun downed with a shotgun, and not beer distributor employees, Conn. might gather the gumption to put in place some controls? I don't know. Something about knowing that the police in OC California are "beefing up" anything doesn't inspire a whole hell of a lot of confidence.
MFriedrich December 15, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I doubt it: http://www.emaxhealth.com/6705/california-ordered-release-33000-prisoners-many-mentallyiill
Mike Brenhaug December 15, 2012 at 06:30 PM
My thoughts and prayers are with all the families, children and school officials that suffered from this horrific incident. While I appreciate the comments the OC school officials made saying they are prepared and that the children's safety is their #1 priority they talk about police and emergency services. I'm sure they are prepared for post event but what is clearly missing is prevention. My kids go to school in OC and I can walk on any campus, any elementary, any middle school or high school at anytime of the day. The teachers and a school officials don't know me. For all intent and purposes I'm a complete stranger. Granted I don't look like a nut job but the fact remains our campuses are not as safe as the school officials believe they are. Yes I'm sure they are prepared as I mentioned for post event incident but they are not prepared to prevent. Beefing up the police around schools is not a realistic solution. This was an isolated incident not a terrorist attack and the schools have not budgeted to have "beefed up" security so it's not sustainable. Please spare the us the appeasing comments in the article and focus on a real solution for our children and teachers.
Cathy December 15, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Well said Mike, I just wrote a similar comment on patch but my "Tolstoy" emotions got the best of me, and it was not posted. Let No School or any other entity say they "Are Prepared" and mislead anyone to think we are prepared and you are safe! Realistically say we are doing all we can and will continue the best we can with the funds and education and knowledge we have. NO ONE can prepare for "Crazy, Disgruntled and "One On A Mission!" Who is not of our mindset. Newtown ship got up one morning as we all do and felt safe. My heart is breaking for all these families and all that are entrenched in this horrific tragedy. Do not be so cold by saying with a flat statement," We Are Prepared"! As one who has been entrenched in a similar tragedy, you are NEVER prepared for what this fells upon you in the aftermath. Rip little ones and those who did their best to keep you safe! May God's arms be around all who are so affected.
Cathy December 15, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Prepare by teaching parents, family's and our children in awareness, in compassion and love, to not breed hatred and indifference, teach and talk about grief and how things affect us and why, prepare more in continuing schooling of signs of the unusual and out of character and how to properly address these things, prepare to talk and be open, prepare on where these funds for the protection in place, we all would like and need. I can first hand say as a volunteer first responder, the funds are not there, hence the word volunteer. Our many entity's as far as fire and law enforcement are doing all they can with the limited funds they have and are continuing to be slowly strangled. I too give applause to OC schools and others for their diligence and effort to do all they can, but the prevention is not up to what it should be. And you can never prepare for the "the cold and callous who is not in our mindset and determined to destroy, it is not in the "Norm of most of our mindset."
concerned parent December 15, 2012 at 11:11 PM
I agree that it's ridiculous for OC schools to say they are "prepared" for this kind of horrific situation. Most schools here in California are incredibly open--on most schools you can walk onto most campuses/playgrounds easily, without any issue whatsoever. In Connecticut, an official actually had to buzz the gunman in. We don't have any security like that in most of our school.s-and I'm not sure we'd want to live in a fortress society where there were huge gates around campuses, etc. I really don't know what the answer is--but I certainly don't think districts should give parents a false sense of security.
JustUs December 16, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Wow. Those folks today at Macy's in Newport who were terrified from purported gunfire would have nervous breakdowns if they lived in Santa Ana on any given Friday or Saturday night.
MisturChips December 16, 2012 at 07:12 AM
Prepare by training and arming instructors to protect their students. Face the facts - Guns are here to stay, so as a society, they should be embraced, not feared. If everyone had a piece of pipe with a handle attached, knew how to use it effectively, and carried it with them at all times, they could prevent widespread damage when a kooky individual decided to perform such an act. I read earlier that even LEO's are saying ditch the 'gun-free school; areas and such. Would you rob a bank knowing most of the folks in there would have their Smith and Wesson pipes with handles pointed at your head in a matter of seconds?
John January 26, 2013 at 02:48 AM
Every state that passed concealed carry has seen a drastic decrease in crime.Since concealed carry started in 1992 America has had a 50% decrease in murders.Americans use guns two million times a year to stop major felonies.John Lott "More Guns Less Crime" This current attack on our self defense rights is designed to disarm a country built on the Second Amendment right to stop a corrupt Government.Jefferson said the beauty of the second amendment is" you never need it til they try to take it".Americans have obeyed their last gun law and rightly so.

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