Santa Ynez High School takes school safety seriously. We have a comprehensive school safety plan and routinely practice drills so that our response in the event of an emergency will be automatic. While no amount of planning and practice can ultimately prepare any school or its community for the utter devastation of a school shooting or other catastrophic incident, we feel it is important to share how we prepare for all sorts of potential emergency scenarios.
To begin with, we have five strategic responses in the event of an emergency, most of which are practiced twice each year, once near the beginning of each semester during our Drill-a-Day—affectionately known as DAD—weeks. During our most recent DAD which began on Monday, February 5–just last week, in fact—we practiced four of the five responses, which are:
- Evacuation (in class): This response is to provide an orderly evacuation in the event of a fire or other event on campus which occurs when class is in session and requires moving the entire student body to a safe location where they can be accounted and provided for until such time as they can return safely to class or can be released to parents.
- Evacuation (out of class): This response is used in similar circumstances when students are out on campus before and after school and on breaks and passing periods.
- Lockdown (in class): This response is to quickly and efficiently secure campus through the locking of doors, covering of windows and turning off of electronics in the event of an intruder or other threat on campus when students are in class.
- Lockdown (out of class): This response is used in similar circumstances when students are out on campus before and after school and on breaks and passing periods.
- Earthquake: Earthquakes trigger shelter-in-place drills with students and teachers getting under desks or in doorways and away from windows.
The response we did not practice last week was evacuation when students are out of class, because we are refining our procedures to make it easier to account for all students. In addition to the bi-annual student drills, teachers are trained annually on our procedures and their specific roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency. General protocols for each type of response are outlined in flip-style Emergency Management Guides posted in classrooms and offices across campus.
Complete, detailed emergency procedures and crisis management information is found in the Comprehensive School Safety Plan which is updated annually and approved by the Board of Education. Physical copies of the plan are kept in strategic locations across campus where they can be made available to first responders on short notice. A digital copy is also available for more immediate access and distribution in time sensitive situations. The plan is written and formatted according to the SEMS (Standardized Emergency Management System) and NIMS (National Incident Management System) protocols familiar to law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel. The plan includes campus maps, locations of utilities shut-offs, alarm codes, important phone numbers, bell schedules, critical medical information, emergency contacts, and a host of other information useful to first responders.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department is the primary law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over Santa Ynez High School. The Sheriff no longer assigns a dedicated School Resource Deputy to our campus. Any report of an in-progress fire/life/safety incident of any kind at the high school, however, triggers an automatic full and immediate response from all appropriate agencies, including patrol deputies. Sheriff's deputies are also available on short notice to come to campus when we need law enforcement support in an investigation or disciplinary action. We work closely with our local first responders to be sure that our plans and procedures are kept current and are consistent with their expectations and activities.
Creating and maintaining a safe learning environment is our top priority. Ensuring a swift and appropriate response in the event of an emergency situation is one of the ways we do that; however, we also work hard to prevent situations from becoming emergencies. To do that, we rely on the help of students and parents who share information about potential risks on campus. We welcome any student or parent to call or come to the office with any concern they may have about the safety of our campus. We also provide an anonymous tip line for those who, for whatever reason, prefer not to come forward in person. Students and parents can call or text the CyberBully Hotline, anonymously. Text messages are preferred over voicemails, because they allow for an anonymous two-way message thread between the reporter and administrators to ensure as much clarity about a concern as possible. If you are reading this and know of any actionable information which can help us prevent an incident on campus which might put students at risk, we encourage you to please get that information into the hands of the administration however and as soon as you can.
If anything positive about school safety can be taken away from the first months of 2018, it is that we are all talking about it and recognizing that it is everyone's job to keep students safe at school. As a community, we must work together by watching vigilantly, listening intently, and talking to one another about potential threats to safety and security to make sure that all of the school campuses in the Santa Ynez Valley are secure places where all students feel safe and comfortable coming to learn.