Sheriff’s deputies were on campus Monday at Eliot Arts Magnet Academy after graffiti mentioning a school shooting was discovered at the school last week.
Investigating deputies determined there was no viable threat to the school, PUSD Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald told Pasadena Now.
In an email to parents last Friday, Principal Dr. Benita Scheckel wrote, “It was brought to our attention today that there is some graffiti on the wall between the upper and lower field mentioning a school shooting on Monday. We immediately notified the Altadena Sheriff’s Office and are working with them to investigate. We believe this to not be a viable threat.”
Scheckel held two online public meetings on Monday to address parents’ concerns.
“We take the safety of our students seriously,” Scheckel continued in her email. “To this end, as we continue to investigate the issue, we ask any student with information about who wrote this message to please contact the office.”
Dozens of parents attended the online meetings in which Dr. Scheckel addressed concerns not only about the graffiti incident but about school security in general, including reports of locked gates and bathrooms during the school day.
Scheckel told the meeting that only the main school front entrance would be accessible during the school day, to minimize “unwanted visitors.”
Parents had previously reported that children were encountering locked fences and gates on campuses.
Dr. Scheckel said, “I feel like we have too many exits open at the end of the school day.”
As she explained further, “What’s happening right now is that we are dismissing the fifth graders and the students with special needs out onto Calaveras [Street], and that’s been really helpful to reduce the congestion, and the neighbors and merchants are grateful because it’s been a hot mess over there.”
With regard to child welfare, attendance and safety, Dr. Scheckel told the parents that the school supports a policy of nondiscrimination and fair treatment of pupils, along with a Discipline Policy and Code. She stressed that no gang affiliations or graffiti are tolerated and that the school supports alternative programs and placement, where appropriate.
The school also implements crisis intervention and disaster planning.
Scheckel urged parents to join the school’s School Site Committee, and outlined the school’s campus safety strategies for the parents, which began with making sure that front office staff monitor all visitors to minimize unsafe disruptions, new lights and cameras will be posted around campus, and that the school will hold a monthly fire, earthquake or lockdown drill.
Scheckel said that she had hesitated announcing the dates of drills for elementary school students, to avoid having students be anxious about them. She also wanted students to be “surprised” at drills, so that the drills might be more effective. Teachers and staff would be given printed instructions on what is to be done during the drills.
A school safety committee has also been established, said Scheckel, that will meet at least twice during the school year. Supply bins are also being inventoried, and the school district is working on filling in any missing or outdated items.
Scheckel stressed the importance of parent/guardian involvement, which would involve effective use of the School Site Committee, encouraging participation in parenting programs, establishing school visitation procedures, providing a newsletter or weekly phone blast to parents, making use of the School accountability Report Card Dashboard, providing opportunities for teacher/parent conferences, and maintaining an effective homework policy.
Along with those changes, Scheckel told the meeting that the school would repair non-working cameras, as well as add new ones, and get new lights for the kinder playground at the elementary school.
In addition, the school staff would “reflect” on the new procedures put in place this school year, as to their effectiveness. The school will also implement active shooter training for staff, as well as hire more PAWS Team members to work with students at the elementary level.
The Positive Actions With Supports (PAWS) Program is an intensive behavior program for those students whose behavior is the primary disruption to their learning.
For the middle school campus, Eliot will hire more PE aides and security staff, Scheckel said.