Audit finds California schools’ active-shooter response inadequate

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Over the past decade, schools have become the second most common location for active-shooter incidents, according to the FBI. A state audit, however, found that California K-12 schools are unprepared for incidents of gun violence.

The California State Auditor recently looked at three school districts and three county offices of education and found that state law does not require schools to have active-shooter response procedures in their “comprehensive school safety plan.”

But according to Charles Burress, spokesperson for the Berkeley Unified School District, schools in the district have an explicit active-shooter plan called the ALICE protocol: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. Each school is required to hold fire, earthquake and lockdown drills at least once a month for elementary schools and four times per year for middle and high schools.

Although the audit was restricted to K-12 schools, college campuses have seen several incidents of gun violence.

In the event of an active shooter, UCPD also follows the ALICE active-shooter response model, according to UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich. Reich added that UCPD conducts several instruction presentations on campus throughout the year.

The state audit recommends that the state Legislature create laws that require schools to include procedures, such as lockdowns, in their safety plans as well as verification that districts comply with such laws. These kinds of systems, however, can be very expensive, according to Larry Rosenthal, a campus assistant adjunct professor of public policy.

“Unless those schools are provided the resources, what it will mean is that money will be taken out of the budget for teachers, supplies, computers, … all the other things we need … for a school to run,” Rosenthal said. “I think (there are) questions about feasibility and enforceability.”

Rosenthal added that while the danger of gun violence in schools shouldn’t be minimized, it should be treated in relation to its frequency. Fortunately, such events are rare, and there are other events that harm the education of children more often, according to Rosenthal. He hopes future audits address injuries, such as those caused in gym classes, as well as illnesses made worse by schools’ communal spaces — more frequent events that get less political attention.

According to the FBI, there have been 12 instances of active shooters on college campuses in the United States between 2000 and 2013. There has been no such incident at UC Berkeley in its 149-year history.

“There’s a recognition among professionals in the field,” Rosenthal said, “that you could take a ton of safety steps and spend a bunch of money and still have a bad event.”

Michael Lee is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @_HyunkyuL.

Due to misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article stated that UCPD does not have a protocol regarding active shooter situations. In fact, there is an active shooter protocol in place for the campus.