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Report Number: 2016-136


School Violence Prevention
School Districts, County Offices of Education, and the State Must Do More to Ensure That School Safety Plans Help Protect Students and Staff During Emergencies

August 31, 2017 2016-136

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning kindergarten through grade 12 schools' readiness to respond to emergencies, especially active shooter threats and incidents in and around school sites.

This report concludes improvements need to be made to comprehensive school safety plans (safety plans) to ensure students and staff are kept safe, including during active shooter incidents. Safety plans are a collection of procedures that schools use in the event of emergencies and to promote a safe learning environment. Although not required by state law, some public school districts (districts) and county offices of education (county offices) have embraced practices for responding to violent incidents. However, our analysis found that many districts and county offices do not require schools to include these procedures in their safety plans, which precludes these procedures from being vetted and communicated through the established safety plan development process.

In addition, our review of safety plans from three districts and three county offices found that plans were missing required procedures used for responding to other emergencies, such as earthquakes, and lacked policies intended to foster a safe learning environment. Specifically, safety plans for schools in the Kern, Placer, and San Bernardino county offices, and the San Bernardino City Unified School District (San Bernardino City Unified) lacked numerous elements, including policies for notifying teachers of dangerous pupils and creating disaster response procedures for pupils with disabilities. Failures by schools to create safety plans that include these and other elements required by state law increase the risk that they will not be prepared to respond to emergencies or help ensure that the schools foster an environment where students can safely learn.

Further, we found that districts, county offices, and state agencies have provided schools with weak oversight, resulting in an environment ripe for inadequate emergency responses that may put students and staff at risk. Our review found that the Kern, Placer, and San Bernardino county offices, and San Bernardino City Unified failed to properly monitor schools to ensure that they submitted safety plans and that those plans contained all the elements required by state law. Further, we found that the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Department of Justice are not providing sufficient guidance to districts or county offices related to ensuring their schools comply with safety plan requirements. Although CDE has provided some guidance to districts and county offices related to safety plans, districts and county offices we reviewed stated that they had not received any information from CDE, or wanted CDE to provide additional resources such as training.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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