School safety message in response to Florida high school shooting

Dear Santa Barbara Unified School District Families:

On behalf of our Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education and our entire school community, our condolences go out to all the families facing unimaginable grief at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Broward County, Florida. There are no words for the the violation that tragedies like this do to sacred spaces where every child should feel safe, protected, and ready to learn. Our district leadership team will closely monitor information from the Florida shooting and lessons learned from the senseless tragedy. At the same time, all our schools will continue to follow existing school safety protocols and I am writing to share a recent framework developed to strengthen these efforts. Above all, the most effective and proactive safety plan for a school is a rich network of relationships between adults and students, and students with other students. While it’s difficult to predict all possible scenarios, when students feel safe to talk to adults and each other, it builds resiliency and an early warning system to proactively address issues ahead of time.

Each of our Santa Barbara Unified School District schools have existing school safety plans that are updated annually and practiced throughout the year for incidents that we hope will never happen. These safety plans and ongoing drills are reviewed and modified by our staff as needed. I encourage all our families to discuss, together at home, your school safety plan which can be found online by visiting www.sbunified.org/safety. Our district is also extraordinarily fortunate to have strong partnerships in place with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Barbara Police Department as well as a robust network of community mental health partners who regularly collaborate and are engaged with our students and schools.

I recently developed a framework to strengthen safety systems that was presented to our Board of Education. Recommendations were made based upon feedback from engaged families regarding student safety online and at school. This framework outlines key action steps to address: communication, student intervention on issues of hate and bias, digital citizenship curriculum, and a district webpage dedicated to school safety. I have listed below some key districtwide highlights of that framework below:

  • COMMUNICATION: We developed a school incident parent notification protocol that provides guidelines on levels of notification and systems used to communicate with our families if there is an emergency at, or associated with, one of our schools. While we acknowledge that immediacy of communication will depend on the scope of an event and the potential or actual impact to the safety of our students, we recognize the importance of these written communication protocols for our families. This notification protocol can be found on the district student safety webpage at: www.sbunified.org/safety
  • HATE AND BIAS INTERVENTION: I have asked leaders from the Anti Defamation League and Just Communities to provide intervention and support to address threats of violence as well as misogynistic and racist comments against students. Both of these organizations will be mobilized primarily to our high schools. However, I anticipate expanding upon their work throughout our district. We also appreciate the mental health support from our community partners who have worked with our high schools and junior high schools over the last decade, these partners include: AHA!, Wellness Connection Clubs, and What is Love.
  • DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP CURRICULUM: I have directed our district’s credentialed Tech Coaches to expand our use of Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship curriculum.

As Superintendent, it is times like these that we are reminded of the important and delicate partnership we have with our families, students, and staff in raising healthy, safe, and productive members of our society. More information about organizations and resources for student safety can be found by visiting www.sbunified.org/safety

Sincerely,

Cary Matsuoka, Superintendent

Santa Barbara Unified School District