Despite the risk posed to students and staff, many California schools fail to include active shooter scenarios in state-required safety plans, according to a new audit.
Schools and colleges were the second-most common location for shooting incidents from 2000 to 2015. California law, though, does not mandate that school safety plans address the issue, such as by creating procedures for lockdowns or evacuations.
Thursday’s report by the Bureau of State Audits highlighted lax oversight of plan preparation by state and local officials. In some cases, the audit found, schools repeatedly filed the same plans year after year while some submitted none at all.
“Districts and county offices have provided their schools with inadequate oversight, resulting in the schools’ potential reliance on insufficient or nonexistent safety plans and creating an environment for inadequate emergency response,” the audit said.
Auditors said lawmakers need to mandate such preparations
The audit noted that the December 2015 terrorist attack at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino took place near several schools, but “in the years following the incident, San Bernardino City Unified has not implemented a process that its schools submit annual safety plans.”
The report also pointed out state agencies’ shortcomings.
Even though state law requires it, the state departments of education and justice ended a partnership meant to help local schools prepare their plans, citing a lack of money. In addition, the education department never checked that local agencies were actually preparing them.
“If CDE had conducted such a review, it would have found numerous instances – as we did – in which districts and county offices failed to report schools that did not submit plans,” the audit said.
In its response to the audit, the education department disagreed with a recommendation that it offer more guidance to districts about their building disaster plans. It’s already doing so, wrote Michelle Zumot, a deputy to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, citing an annual letter the department sends to districts.
The auditor’s office countered that the state letter actually lacks any guidance on the plans.
Some districts do a better job making sure that safety plans comply with state law, the audit said.
Rocklin Unified School District distributes a safety plan template to schools and tracks the plans’ return, while the Placer County Office of Education requires districts to certify that they have reviewed schools’ safety plans.