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School Security: It's Taken Seriously in Cupertino

A potential bomb threat at Monta Vista High and the horrific tragedies in Connecticut call to question if any child is safe at school. Know that the schools and law enforcement officials in the area take it very seriously.

Each school addresses safety differently in the event of an emergency but all Cupertino school district and law enforcement officials say they take it seriously.

"We do take the threats very, very seriously," said Capt. Ken Binder, commander of Santa Clara County Sheriff's West Valley Station in Cupertino.

It was a message echoed by the schools and school districts in the community.

Regular evacuation drills for  are done periodically within school districts, and other safety trainings are practiced as well.

Both Cupertino Union School District and Fremont Union High School District have in place trainings, policies and procedures that are taught and practiced with law enforcement on a routine basis, they say.

When Thursday's bomb threat came to light those procedures went into effect.

Monta Vista High School was considered the only true risk site by police—it's been confirmed by various sources that there were graffiti postings of the bomb threat on at least three different public school walls—but only Monta Vista was investigated thoroughly by law enforcement.

Monta Vista, which is part of Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) closed school and notified parents as early as 7:30 a.m. according to some parents who received an auromated message. Roads leading to the school were blocked by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies who were on the scene investigating the threat.

Lincoln Elementary School, located adjacent to Monta Vista, but part of Cupertino Union School District (CUSD), was also closed but it wasn’t determined that it needed to be closed until shortly after 8 a.m. which is 55 minutes before the school’s start time of 8:55 a.m.

The notification to parents about that closure was received by some parents at about 8:20 a.m. though the district says the message was deployed by 8:05 a.m.—the delivery delay was most likely the cause of the delivery system.

The notice delay between Monta Vista and Lincoln is relevant to the situation at hand. Sheriff’s deputies were in the throes of investigation at Monta Vista and determining the level of threat to the area. CUSD needed to stand by—and there was an administrative official at the command center—until they knew the “exact situation” that they were dealing with, according to CUSD spokesman Jeremy Nishihara.

Once you say you are closing the school, you can’t pull that back, Nishihara says. They didn’t want to unnecessarily close the school, and believed it prudent to get more information from local law enforcement before making the call.

When CUSD learned it would be hours before McClellan Road was reopened they sent out their message.

Fully aware of the scare of Thursday's bomb threat, which proved to be a threat, not an explosion, Friday messages from both school districts took a different tone based on the events that occurred in Connecticut.

A message sent out by CUSD Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz read: “We are all deeply troubled to hear about the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school this morning. Our hearts go out to the parents and families involved in this tragedy. At this time, our crisis counseling teams are prepared and ready to assist students, parents, and staff in dealing with this tragedy.

This incident, as well as the police action in our community yesterday, is a stark reminder of the importance of our safety measures at all of our school sites. We have safety procedures and check-in protocols in place at all school sites and we conduct regular drills, involving our local law enforcement agencies, just to name a few.”

And FUHSD Superintendent Polly Bove sent out a message to the community as well. In part, she said:

“Parents of Fremont Union High School District students should be aware that staff at all of our schools go through extensive training on how to handle situations like the one experienced in Connecticut today.

We recognize that this has been a trying week for many. Know that we will continue to work in partnership with law enforcement to ensure the safety of all students and staff.”

—Mayra Flores de Marcotte contributed to this article

Ames December 15, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I find it ironic that though the sheriff obviously takes these threats very seriously, Anne Ernst does not. Though she believes that "this was not a serious threat," the police are still continuing the investigation, and at a time where a life of a teacher is still very much being disrupted by this grave occurrence posting the victim's information online is very much in bad taste, if not outright going against the police's wishes. Though you may not be able to protect the school, you should still do your best to protect the teacher's identity. That said, what happened in Newtown was an unthinkable tragedy and my best wishes go out to the families there. Unfortunately, the incident at Newtown was not an isolated occurrence, but I hope that this will allow this nation to finally take more steps to make sure these types of shootings never happen again.
hihi December 15, 2012 at 11:42 PM
my thoughts and prayers to all those affected in this tragic event
kd December 16, 2012 at 12:42 AM
I wonder if this day will be made up later on in the year. It seems unfair to cheat the students out of a day of school. Where I grew up there were regular snow storms and their would often be two hour delays for school. Sometimes theses "delays" turned into school closings. We just tuned in to the radio to find out what was happening. With internet it would probably be even easier to do something like this instead of automatically closing the schools.

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