Creating Safe Schools, Safe Communities

As we prepare to start the 2019-20 school year, we’d like to reiterate to our families that our schools are safe and welcoming places for all students. Recent acts of violence across the country can be difficult for young people to process, and in some cases, create anxiety and concern. Our heart goes out to those whose communities have suffered in the wake of that violence.

We’d like to highlight the efforts we’ve made throughout SB Unified to ensure that crisis response measures are in place. Each campus has an existing safety plan that is updated annually, and reviewed regularly. The unified protocols and procedures contained in those plans are practiced throughout the year for incidents that we hope will never happen. 

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. 

Frann Wageneck, SB Unified Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, said our district is committed to ensuring that all teachers and staff are trained on safety protocols, including understanding how we partner with law enforcement and support neighboring campuses in the event of a crisis. “This is about making our whole community stronger, not just our schools,” Wageneck said. “Being able to come at school safety with a community lens is incredibly valuable. This is about being trained on proactive responses and breaking down silos.”

Santa Barbara Unified School District Safety Coordinator Kelly Moore, a former Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Commander, has trained all district teachers and staff on Standard Response Protocols, a uniform classroom response that can be applied to any incident, whether it be a fire, a weather event, an intruder or other threats to student safety. The protocol was developed by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation, created in 2006 by Ellen and John-Michael Keyes following a school shooting that took the life of their daughter, Emily.

“Being prepared and understanding protocols in advance is the most critical aspect of ensuring safety in a critical incident,” said Moore, who joined SB Unified in July 2018. “Once you’re in an emergency, it’s too late to look back and figure out what you are supposed to do.”

As a Sheriff’s commander, Moore was charged with coordinating the response to the 2014 shootings in Isla Vista. He also served as the Unified Incident Commander following the 2018 Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow. Moore knows too well that communication is critical during crisis response. “When I came to the schools, I saw that we needed to help establish a standard vernacular, a common terminology and protocol, so that no matter what school you went to, everyone is trained the same way.”

This summer, Moore led a first-of-its-kind joint training connecting school administrators with law enforcement officials. The event was an opportunity to share from past crisis response experiences, and also introduced Santa Barbara principals, assistant principals and other staff to the Incident Command System, which defines roles and responsibilities during emergencies, crises, and large scale events.

Moore explained the distinction between a “first responder” and an “immediate responder.” “The culture is to dial 911 and wait for that first responder, when in fact, the first responder is actually whoever is there at the time of the incident. We have to teach people to do hands-only CPR, how to apply a tourniquet. We have to shift mindsets,” he said. “It’s not dialing 911 and waiting. It’s dialing 911 and acting. We’ve gotten to rely on our emergency response teams too much in large crisis. My goal here is for us to build a more resilient community.”