By Ameera Butt, Los Feliz Ledger Contributing Writer | http://bit.ly/12gvpDj
After the Dec. 14th shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, people paid tribute to the 20 children and six adults killed leaving toys, cards and candles underneath a Christmas tree dedicated to each victim. Photo: Allison B. Cohen
Friday, November 28th, 2014 at 6:00 am - ATWATER VILLAGE :: The school entrance for Glenfeliz Elementary School will be revamped for safer security, according to Los Angeles Unified School District officials. The change is needed, officials say, in response to shootings at other schools across the nation.
Currently, the school’s main entrance provides access to the main office, the playground area and to its kindergarten classrooms, according to Principal Karen Sulahian. The reconfigured gate will tunnel visitors into the main office only, she said.
According to Sulahian, no shootings or threats have occurred at the school, but due to recent multiple school shootings across the United States, these precautionary measures are needed.
“We realized that times have changed,” she said, and that schools and playgrounds used to be open for public access. But now, she said, “It’s not the best practice to do that.”
On LAUSD school campuses, there has only been one recent accidental shooting at Gardena High School in 2011, according to the Los Angeles School Police Dept. There have been none since.
But since the Dec. 14th, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, there have been 91 incidences of shootings at schools, including at Santa Monica City College in June, 2013. Of the 91 shootings, 43 have been at colleges or universities, including one November 20th. The remaining 48 shootings have happened on kindergarten through 12th grade campuses.
After the October school shooting at a high school in Washington state, where a teenager with a gun shot four of his classmates and then himself, there have been no local concerns raised by parents, according to principal Sulahian.
But Sulahian said she is “acutely aware” of every shooting that takes place.
Part of the LAUSD’s procedures in active shooter situations are “lock down” scenarios, or having students remain in a classroom or designated location, according to Steven Zipperman, Chief of Police for the Los Angeles School Police Dept.
According to Zipperman, “lock downs” additionally occur if there is an intruder on campus or if police activity is near a campus.
However, after Sandy Hook, that claimed 26 students and staff, the LAUSD now allows principals and teachers to quickly move students off campus, if needed, to save as many lives as possible during an active shooter scenario, Zipperman said.
“It could be a church [or] wherever they may need to seek shelter and [be] away from the threat,” Zipperman said.
LAUSD Boardmember for District 5 Bennett Kayser said LAUSD students have also recently been trained to report fellow students with guns to school staff. But sadly, he said, today’s students seem all too familiar with gun violence.
“So many of our kids have experienced gun violence and trauma [in their homes], and LAUSD is truly a respite,” he said.
Meanwhile in nearby Echo Park, Emilio Garza, Principal of Elysian Heights Elementary School, said the school is discussing with LAUSD officials the addition of a buzzer and metal detector at the front of the school as a safety precaution. The buzzer would allow administrators to keep the front doors locked and allow them to buzz visitors inside. According to Garza, the front entrance to the school is currently not locked during school hours.
Zipperman, with the school police department, said every time a shooting happens elsewhere everyone thinks “OK, I guess we have some breathing room for a while. . . . But, we don’t know that,” he said. “These things remind everybody, first of all, there is [nowhere] 100% safe, no matter what plans you have in place.”
The cost of the improved security at Glenfeliz Elementary will be about $12,000 and will be completed by June 2015. According to principal Sulahian, the delay is due to other projects that have been prioritized first by LAUSD.
Allison B. Cohen contributed to this story.