By Emily Rasmussen, The Capistrano Dispatch

In light of Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida that has left 17 people dead so far, Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Superintendent Kirsten Vital reached out to the community in a letter to ensure parents that there is a safety plan in place.

“Today, our hearts are heavy for the families, friends and entire Parkland, Florida community as we mourn the devastating loss of life that occurred yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Vital said in the letter.

Vital noted that throughout the morning following the shooting, numerous families have reached out to CUSD regarding what plans and procedures are in place to keep students, families and staff safe in emergencies. The district has a safety plan in place that is specific to each site, that is reviewed annually since 2012, she said in the letter.

The district also works with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) in planning and security assessments of the schools; the Sheriff’s Department’s School Mobile Assessment and Resource Team that is used in school situations or incidents related to violence; and the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, which is an information and intelligence-sharing network that collects, analyzes and disseminates information on criminal risks and safety threats, Vital added in the letter.

“In the area of training, we conduct ongoing drills and simulated emergency services for our staff, and this training is reviewed and modified as needed,” Vital said in the letter. “We also train our staff to speak up and report suspicious activity they see at our school sites or offices.”

Ryan Burris, CUSD chief communications officer, offered additional information on school safety training in an automated email response on Thursday. The OCSD-partnered training is called ‘Deny Access, Evade and Engage,’ the email read.

“It is a three-step approach to responding to a threat on campus. In the event of a lockdown, school staff first works to deny access to the threat, if necessary after assessing the situation, they will instruct students to move away from (or evade) the threat. Finally, if necessary, school staff and students will use whatever means necessary to stop the threat (engage),” Burris said in the email.

Vital asked that any parents, students, teachers, administrators and staff report any unusual and suspicious activity on campuses and for families to talk to their children to do the same.

“We want everyone on our campuses to be empowered to speak up about anything that looks out of place,” Vital said in the letter.


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