In a recent school safety survey, 94 percent of Rancho Santa Fe School District parents said they feel their children are safe at the school while 58 percent showed support for having armed guards on campus. Fifteen percent of parents were neutral. The survey conducted shortly after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and threats of violence at several local schools, measured the thoughts of 228 parents and 90 staff members.
“The fear of parents is a real fear. It’s a fear we all share. We all have different ideas on the scope of the problem but the fear is real,” said Superintendent David Jaffe. “The best way to address it in the school system is to bring folks to the table to discuss how we can make improvements.”
Jaffe said in the comments from the survey, the fear parents expressed is situational to a school shooting.
“The reality of these shootings are one in three million,” Jaffe said of the odds, although there have been three school shootings in San Diego. “If you look at all the school shootings that occurred outside of Sandy Hook, the elementary school environment is the safest school environment of any school environment. The school in and of itself remains the safest place a child can be. That being said, what we do here and safety provisions that we put in place here should be reasonable, it should be effective and something that we look at and continue to improve upon.”
Jaffe said they will not shy away from the results, such as parents’ higher concerns about the security of the school entrances and staff’s higher concerns about safety in lunch and playground areas. There was also a disparity between parents and staff on whether administrators quickly respond to threats or rumors of aggressive or violent behaviors. The survey showed 70 percent of staff members believed that administrators responded quickly while 18 percent disagreed.
Jaffe said that result resonated with him as superintendent—he said the likely reason is they haven’t had a mechanism for staff to share concerns on a regularly scheduled basis so that is something they will put in place.
Board member Scott Kahn also expressed concerns that 70 percent of staff was familiar or somewhat familiar with emergency procedures when Kahn believes that number should be closer to 100 percent.
Kahn noted for the most part, the staff responses amplified what the parents were saying, with the exception of armed guards. While 58 percent of parents supported the idea of armed guards and 15 percent were neutral, the staff response was the opposite with only 33 percent in support.
Vice President Tyler Seltzer said with 58 percent in favor of armed guards, if the district does not decide to move forward, it will warrant further explanation and reasoning from the district.
Jaffe agreed as he said parent comments ranged from “I will leave this school if you have armed guards” to “I will leave this school if you don’t.”
“I think it deserves a very focused, thoughtful dialogue,” President Todd Frank said of the issue.
Jaffe made a clear statement that he is not in support of arming teachers or administrators to the applause of some parents in the audience.
Overall, Jaffe said he was pleased with the high participation in the survey as it only helps them moving forward with their primary goal to keep kids safe. He was also “thrilled” with the work of the school’s new safety advisory committee, which met for the first time on Monday, April 2.
The committee is composed of 24 members including 10 parents, 12 staff members, a representative from the RSF Community Center and school board member Sarah Neal.
hey will hold three more meetings in April, May and June, targeting June 14 for the school board approval of an updated safety plan.
The committee’s goals include establishing effective safety communications and maintaining a safe and secure campus through limiting campus access during pick-up and drop-off and use of an electronic visitor check-in system.
The district is also exploring ID badges and card readers for doors with electronic locks as well as hiring a safety consultant to provide vulnerability assessments, individual training and communications planning.
Jaffe has also had conversations with the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol, which is on campus periodically in the mornings and evenings, about formalizing their arrangement. He said on the day of the National School Walkout on March 14, the school had Patrol, Rancho Santa Fe Security, SD County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol officers on campus to deal with any issue that might occur, simply based on based on conversations with RSF Patrol Chief Matt Wellhouser.
Seltzer said he strongly encouraged that Jaffe keeps that positive relationship with the Patrol.
“They are in essence, because of their proximity, similar to having armed guards on campus,” Seltzer said.
Jaffe assured that he is working to keep that strong connection between the school and the RSF Patrol.