By Daniel Langhorne | LB Indy
At its Feb. 13 meeting, the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education is slated to review a state-mandated safety plan for how district employees will respond to natural and man-made emergencies.
The meeting comes in the wake of a successful campaign by the parents of El Morro Elementary School students to lobby city and school district officials to ramp-up police services at the campus. School Resource Officer Fred Yielding was selected last month by the Laguna Beach Police Department to join Cpl. Cornelius Ashton in supporting Laguna Beach Unified students and employees.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes also signed a letter last September reaffirming an inter-jurisdictional agreement that allows Laguna Beach officers to respond to 911 calls for service at El Morro, even though the campus sits in unincorporated county land.
Angela Harris, El Morro’s parent liaison to the district-wide School Safety Planning Committee, said parents are pleased with police and school district leaders’ responsiveness to their concerns.
“Not only are you seeing more presence on the campus but you’re also seeing our area patrolled, which I think is putting a lot of parents at ease,” Harris said.
Parents are still concerned that 911 calls dialed from cell phones at and around El Morro are routed to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Emergency Communications Bureau. State law requires that telecommunications companies route emergency calls for service to the agency that ultimately responds to the majority of calls from a certain cell tower.
Emergency calls from landlines at El Morro are answered by Laguna Beach police.
“We don’t have the cell tower worked out,” Harris. “[The inter-jurisdictional agreement] is solving that problem in the meantime.”
Notably, the safety plan directs administrative staff who suspect any person of possessing a weapon on campus, in a non-threatening situation, to notify law enforcement by calling 949-497-0701, which is the general line for Laguna Beach police. Parents have asked for a phone number that would go directly to the watch commander or dispatch supervisor.
This discrepancy seems like an oversight that would get fixed by district administrators before the school board approves the safety plan, Harris said.
At the Jan. 16 school board meeting, board member Dee Perry asked district staffers’ if school buildings are equipped with bullet-proof windows. Jeff Dixon, assistant superintendent of business services, said the district hasn’t installed bullet-proof glass windows, but it has placed a ballistic film over windows at the administration offices at all three school sites. The film won’t stop a bullet but it prevents a person from getting through the glass, Dixon said.
The district recently requested a safety review of its facilities by the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, which is operated by Orange County Sheriff staffers. District staffers have implemented all of the Center’s recommendations, Dixon said.
The school board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on Feb. 13, at the Laguna Beach Unified School District headquarters, 550 Blumont Street.