Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District

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Parent Safety Letter

February 22, 2018

 

Dear Parents,

The recent tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida has reignited a national debate and raised anxiety on campuses across the country.  As your Superintendent of Schools and father of three children, it is important to affirm our commitment to student safety in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. 

After spending time with our staff, including our site principals, I am confident that safety is a top priority and that plans have been reviewed and revised.  Our principals reminded me that many of the drills and meetings occurring at this time had been planned several months ago.  This is a testament to their commitment to protect our students and staff against the unthinkable.  While the Palos Verdes Peninsula is historically one of the safest regions in California, no school is immune to possible threats.  Our principals expressed confidence in our plans and are fully embracing future training efforts.  Finally, our site leaders reiterated their confidence in our strong partnerships with the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department and the Lomita Sheriff’s Department.  Each is responsive and proactive in providing guidance to our school district. 

The entire staff of PVPUSD is scheduled for a full live simulation of an active shooter event in August of 2018 without students.  We are currently working with the FBI to identify potential threats to safety and will provide workshops for our parents.  Our teachers have viewed the Run-Hide-Fight training videos and conducted discussions with our students at most sites.  Schools are conducting drills differentiated by age to teach our students how to handle dangerous or chaotic situations.  This training is consistent with our efforts to educate students about a variety of dangerous scenarios including fires and earthquakes.

Palos Verdes is a step ahead of many school districts when it comes to efforts to support student mental health and well-being.  Our recent decision to employ trained therapists to supplement our counseling services is an example of another proactive step to protect our students.  Students needing help may self-refer or be referred by staff or parents.  Regardless, we are here to help students deal with social and emotional issues.

The media has demonstrated that many of these tragic events were proceeded by postings to social media that went unnoticed or ignored.  Balancing autonomy and supervision of social media is challenging, but we would encourage all parents to have serious conversations with their children about the importance of reporting questionable content and refraining from posting inappropriate comments or threats.  PVPUSD will work closely with our local law enforcement agencies and will not tolerate posts or threats that cause alarm or anxiety.  Please reiterate this position with your kids as our partners in protecting all students. 

This is a scary time in our country and we understand the feelings we are all experiencing.  We encourage everyone to express their thoughts or concerns with their site principals.  We may be heading into a tipping point moment in time when it comes to how our nation addresses school violence.  As such, we expect some questions about how to voice opinions, protest, and lobby for changes.  I have asked our principals to work with their local leaders and students to formulate strategic plans that fit their unique circumstances in an age-appropriate manner.  Thank you for trusting us with your children.  It is not a responsibility lost on any of us at PVPUSD.

 

Sincerely,
Don Austin
Superintendent of Schools