A school shooting is a scenario no one wants to think of — let alone experience — but it's clear there is no hiding from the possibility anymore.
As a result, local school districts have begun rolling out a new school safety initiative called the Standard Response Protocol with backing from Safer Schools Coalition of Kern.
SRP is a response enhancement for critical incidents — weather events, fires, accidents, intruders and other threats — designed to provide clear, consistent language and actions among all staff, students and first responders. It is not a replacement for any school safety plan or protocol, however.
Kern High School District rolled out the protocol over the summer and other school districts in the county are in various stages of implementation.
"When a kid is exposed to (SRP) in elementary school and then they’re trained on it every year and they age out and go to middle school in maybe a different district, they’re accustomed to using this language," explained Robert Meszaros, chair of Safer Schools Coalition of Kern. The ultimate goal is that over time, every student, educator and first responder will know SRP.
There are four specific actions that can be performed during an incident: lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter. These actions are represented by an icon and are communicated over the public address system, followed by a specific directive. For example, “Lockdown! Locks, lights, out of sight,” or "Lockout! Get inside, lock outside doors.”
At KHSD, law enforcement and administrators began training over the summer, while teachers and students received training through a combination of videos, powerpoints and lectures at the start of the school year, explained KHSD Chief of Police Ed Komin.
It's not a radical departure from the safety protocol already in place at the district, Komin said, but rather a more simplified version.
The biggest difference is the distinction between a lockout and lockdown. In a lockout, there is a potential threat off campus, such as criminal or police activity in a nearby neighborhood. The police department and school security staff will respond and make sure the potential threat does not come on campus. In classrooms, teachers will close and lock the door and continue class as usual.
"We might delay the changing of classes and going to lunch, but the educational process continues," Komin said.
A lockdown, in contrast, is called only when there is an immediate, serious hazard on campus that disrupts the educational process. The lockdown protocol requires locking the classroom door, turning off the lights, placing students out of sight of any windows and remaining quiet.
"It would be an overreaction if there’s a threat near the campus to call it a lockdown," Komin said. "I’m excited because I do believe this will make us much safer and be able to respond immediately to the threat."
KHSD students believe the safety trainings were beneficial and important in order for them to feel prepared for any type of emergency.
"I feel that it’s important that we are trained on these action items because we see repeatedly that these tragedies can happen anywhere. Obviously I think that we shouldn’t be in this position, but that shows a problem in our society which administrators are trying to prevent," said Rishabh Rik Bose, a senior at Stockdale High School. "I think the safety protocols were engineered carefully with everyone’s safety in mind, and I feel that if something bad were to happen, following rules will keep me in safety, as rules usually do."
His mother, Piyali, also feels "very safe knowing that my kids are now being prepared and will have the idea of how to protect themselves."
The Bakersfield City School District will hold a districtwide training Thursday.
It comes at an appropriate time after a man under the influence of a substance walked onto Jefferson Elementary School's campus last school year, explained Irma Cervantes Lancaster, district public information officer. Bakersfield Police Department was called to handle the situation.
"It just shows how easy it was for them to get on campus and the importance of ensuring that doors are closed," she said.
Panama-Buena Vista, Greenfield, Fairfax and Delano Union Elementary and other school districts are exploring implementing SRP.
Talks for increased safety came after the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Kern County Superintendent of Schools officials, school districts, BPD, city and county fire departments, Emergency Medical Services/Kern County Public Health Services Department and other community partners formed the Safer Schools Coalition of Kern in spring 2018 in order share best practices and come up with initiatives for school safety.
But at the end of the day, the new protocol and trainings are a regular part of ensuring and improving safety at schools — the safest place a child can be during the day, according to Meszaros.
"Just because we’re doing all of this, it doesn’t need to stress people out," Meszaros said. "We’re doing it to be prepared. The odds of it being used for an active shooter is very, very rare, but we need to be ready if it does happen."
Developed by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation, SRP is made available at no cost to schools and organizations.
For more information about the SRP, visit www.kern.org/safer-schools.