First published in the June 2 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Following the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, last week, La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette took to the podium during a Governing Board meeting on May 26 and assured residents that the safety of students and staff is a constant thought in her mind.
Sinnette, who has worked with LCUSD for 20 years, elucidated the district’s safety measures and protocols that are in place for a number of incidents, including those involving an active shooter, and said that the district began revamping its security since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 students at Stone Douglas High four years ago.
“Since then, we haven’t rested,” Sinnette said. “The [Uvalde shooting] can only serve, as a district, to fuel our commitment, to be even more vigilant, to be even more comprehensive in our safety and security responses. But I do need for you to feel very confident and very aware that this is not something we’re responding to because it’s in the news. It is at the fore of all of our decision-making and all of our responsiveness.”
The superintendent reminded parents that all elementary schools have perimeter fencing and that the high school has strategically placed fencing to keep certain perimeters closed. Locking mechanisms have also been installed at La Cañada High School and will be implemented at elementary sites through modernization projects.
LCSUD has also upgraded its security cameras to provide better footage quality and access locations at all of the district’s school sites. Sinnette credited Jamie Lewsadder, the district’s chief technology officer, with the improved camera systems. Lewsadder is also spearheading a pilot program that will have all visitors register at a kiosk, which will also take pictures and notify administrators of their arrival.
Sinnette added that the district continues to work with Chameleon Associates, a global consulting group based in Woodland Hills, which provides clients with security training. Peter Crabbe, one of Chameleon’s top associates, has trained district employees and visited LCHS to host security briefings for students.
Part of the discussion surrounding mass shootings is about mental health, and Sinnette expressed with pride what the district has done to address the issue. LCUSD boasts a state-of-the-art wellness center at the high school that has counselors, a beloved therapy dog named Harrison and students serving as peer counselors.
“We want every student on our campus to have a connection, to have adults that they can talk to, to feel like they belong,” Sinnette said. “And if they have problems, if we have incidents of bullying, if we have poor behaviors, then we’ll respond by discipline where it’s appropriate, but also by healing, learning and restoring what’s broken. I think with that type of approach, we’re really going to work at making sure our kids, teachers and families, by extension, feel that they’re part of the community, and it’s a community approach that solves these crises when they come up.”