San Bernardino City Unified School District officials held a debriefing exercise Monday to learn more about the community’s experiences with the North Park Elementary School shooting.
Faculty, staff, and administrators joined parents, first responders and community leaders in round table discussions to put into perspective the impact of the tragedy, weigh in on lessons learned, and deliberate on ways to improve support.
“You’re experiences will help us,” Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden said to about 100 people in attendance. “Our goal is to be smarter and better.”
A similar meeting was held after the Inland Regional Center mass shooting that killed 14 people on Dec. 2, 2015. As a result, the district was able to update its lockdown procedures and install cameras at school sites, according to district spokeswoman Linda Bardere.
“We anticipate that we’ll be able to implement some of the suggestions discussed here,” Bardere said.
While the district stepped up security measures after the shooting–installing a camera alert system and other undisclosed upgrades at North Park–some parents continued to express concerns with safety. Others voiced frustration with the district’s efforts to reunite parents with their children and with the perceived lack of training given to faculty, staff, and parents to deal with emergency situations.
“We have a plan to react when these kind of events happen, but not every school does,” said Nery Ruiz, a parent volunteer at Hillside Elementary School. “District wide policies should be implemented to help everyone understand what they can do in times like these.”
On the morning of April 10, Cedric Anderson, 53, entered the classroom of his estranged wife, Karen Smith, shooting and killing her and 8-year-old special education student Jonathan Lopez and wounding another student 8-year-old Nolan Brandy.
Approximately 530 North Park students were evacuated to nearby Cal State San Bernardino and later transported to Cajon High School the day of the shooting. According to several reports, students reunited with their parents four hours after the incident occurred.
“Our goal was to make sure each child was released to the appropriate parent,” explained Marsden. “That took longer than we wanted.”
Despite some setbacks, some community members thanked district officials and law enforcement for their actions during the tragedy.
“We were reminded again of how the community comes together when something like this takes place,” said Travon Martin, a community relations worker with the district. “San Bernardino is strong.”