Local schools take care to prevent campus violence | TheUnion.com

Local schools take care to prevent campus violence

In the light of campus shootings during the past decade throughout America, local high schools take every precaution to ensure their students are safe.

Law requires every school to have its own safety plan, said Trisha Dellis, assistant superintendent personnel for the Nevada Joint Union High School District. The plan, which is reviewed every March, includes multiple crises scenarios and chalks out strategies schools can follow in each case, Dellis said.

Western Nevada County schools have never experienced a shooting incident – or any serious campus violence – but officials are well prepared.

“We have sheriff’s officers on campus at Nevada Union High School and Bear River High School,” Dellis said. “Park Avenue Alternative Education sites have contact with the Grass Valley Police Department.

“If there is an actual incident, our schools go into a lockdown. The police officers on our campuses go after the shooter immediately. But while we’re in a lockdown situation, people have to be careful themselves,” Dellis said.

On a daily basis, law officers stationed at high schools work with school administrators, according to Dellis. They walk around the campus and interact with students, she said.

In addition, group of law enforcement people and school administrators meet every month at the Grass Valley Police Department to discuss safety issues in the community, Dellis said. The group is called Community Agencies United for Safe Schools and Safe Streets.

The best way to nurture a safe environment is by dialogue and communication between school officials and students, according to Anita Bagwell, director of Nevada Union Adult Education, Sierra Mountain High School and the education program at Juvenile Hall.

“Interacting with adults, teenagers can think things through and not feel alone,” said Thomas Bivens, principal of Ready Springs School and Vantage Point Charter School. “(When a shooting incident happens anywhere) it makes me more dedicated to talk to every teenager on our campus. I always approach them assuming we’ll have a pleasant conversation without a power struggle.”

School officials also depend on students to report suspicious behavior amongst their peers.

“The way we ensure safety is by a real strong emphasis on community,” said Marshall Goldberg, principal of Bitney College Prep High School. “What we experience is that students come and let teachers know if they see anything that might be unsafe.”

Finding a definite way to ensure students don’t come armed to school isn’t easy, according to administrators.

“We don’t have metal detectors like some schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District do,” said Jim Nieto, principal of Bear River High School. “Also at Bear River, there isn’t just one way to enter the campus.”

High student numbers can also make it hard to keep a track of what every person is up to, Bagwell said.

Nevada Union High School has a student population of about 2,500, according to Principal Marty Mathiesen. Bear River has about 1,130 students, Nieto said.

“From the studies I’ve read, no one has been able to profile who these people (teenage shooters) are,” Dellis said. “It would be naive to assume we can stop such occurrences because in each case the perpetrators are different.”


To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.

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