San Francisco schools plan shooting-response drills 

click to enlarge San Francisco police will soon have immediate digital access to floor plans at city schools, officials say.
  • San Francisco police will soon have immediate digital access to floor plans at city schools, officials say.

Drills to prepare San Francisco public school students for gunmen on campus are in the works, as The City reviews security procedures in the wake of several recent high-profile campus shootings.

School districts across the country are reconsidering safety policies after the December massacre of 20 first-graders and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

School district officials are “working with SFPD to schedule” the first “active shooter drill,” according to district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

Digital versions of the floor plans of all of San Francisco’s public schools will be made available to the Police Department in upcoming months, according to Cmdr. John Loftus.

Officers responding to emergencies at schools now rely on physical maps that might not be immediately available to those in the field when they are needed most.

“The first 30 minutes are absolute chaos,” he said. “And that’s when [the maps] will be most effective.”

In the Bay Area, the Martinez Unified School District recently mandated that all classroom doors remain locked during school hours. And in Berkeley, educators are hiring outside consultants to assess the safety of campuses.

In the event of an “active shooter” situation, San Francisco teachers are instructed to move students into classrooms, call 911, lock their classrooms down and prepare to evacuate.

Police and school district officials met the day of the Sandy Hook massacre to review these protocols,  Loftus said, adding that cadets, along with veteran officers, will receive new training once new guidelines are finalized.

The first digital floor plans to be made available to police — and viewable via smartphones — will be in the Richmond district, which has the highest concentration of schools in The City, Loftus said.

The timeline for all of the floor plans to be made available to police is unknown.

Security has been downgraded somewhat at San Francisco public schools in recent years, according to the teachers union. All schools used to have full-time security aides, according to Matthew Hardy, a spokesman for the United Educators of San Francisco union. Those security workers are now part-timers due to declining resources.

“They should be made full time again,” Hardy said.

All teachers do have classroom doors that lock, and all classrooms were supposed to receive telephones to use in case of an emergency, which was written into the 2006 teacher contract, Hardy said.

Arming educators, one of the more controversial proposals after the Newtown shooting, has no support in San Francisco, officials said. The 20 SFPD officers patrolling campuses are the only people with firearms in city schools. And no campus has metal detectors.

“It’s still a school,” Loftus said, “we don’t want to turn it into a fortress.”

Despite the push for extra precautions, gun violence at San Francisco schools is virtually unheard of,
Loftus said.

“If someone sees a kid dressed in camouflage carrying a duffel bag into a school, we hope they would call us immediately,” he said.

At the Board of Education’s first meeting since the Sandy Hook massacre, district Superintendent Richard Carranza declared The City’s schools safe, in part because of the social workers, nurses and “wellness centers” available to students thanks to the “largesse of the San Francisco voting community.”

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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