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Supervisors told schools cannot guarantee safety

March 14, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors was told Tuesday by two local school superintendents that despite the school districts' best efforts, it is not possible to guarantee that safety problems such as shootings that have occurred at other schools will not happen here.

Central Union High School District Superintendent Richard Fragale and El Centro School District Superintendent Michael Klentschy appeared before the board by request of supervisors Chairman Tony Tirado in wake of a shooting incident at Santana High School in Santee where two students were killed and 13 students and staff were injured last week.

"We can assure parents that we're doing everything possible to protect their children," Fragale said. "To guarantee their children's safety, I don't think we can do it."

Fragale, who reported in place of county schools Superintendent John Anderson, said each school district has a crisis response team, action plans and that frequent workshops on how to deal with a variety of safety concerns are held. He also said that an increased presence of police officers on campuses has led to safer campuses.

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"There is actually nothing we can do to prevent the type of thing that happened at Santana," Fragale said. "The problem is if someone wants to do something, it's going to happen."

Fragale also suggested a new countywide hot line be implemented that would allow students to anonymously report potentially dangerous conditions. He said the districts are turning to such measures as studying changes in personality that might indicate a potential problem.

"We're taking every step we think we can take," he said.

The Imperial County Sheriff's Department's Crimestoppers hotline now serves as the county's new Safe Schools line, an anonymous service to which students can report threats against local schools, students and staff.

Klentschy said safety is the elementary school districts' No. 1 priority.

He agreed it is not possible to stop every tragedy that might occur even with a large police presence on campuses, metal detectors or continuous training. He credited police presence on campuses and school uniforms with having a major calming effect and reducing campus violence.

Klentschy said the elementary district is also looking at changes in student behavior as a way of preventing tragedies. He said the school districts have plans in place for dealing with tragedies, communications throughout the districts and they bring in contraband sniffing dogs on occasion.

Despite all of that, however, Klentschy said problems cannot be zeroed out.

Finally, the two superintendents invited the supervisors to visit their local schools and participate in the upcoming principal-for-a-day program being sponsored by the El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau on April 26.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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