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Hart district holds forum on school violence

Posted: August 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.

VALENCIA — Experts in threat assessment and emergency outreach met with about 40 members of the Santa Clarita Valley community during a forum Thursday night to discuss how to prevent school and community violence.

The forum was put on at Valencia High School by the William S. Hart Union High School District as a way to look at how to identify possible risks and avoid tragedies such as the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left more than 20 people dead.

“It is important for our families and the community to be aware of measures we are taking to best secure our campuses and provide ongoing training for violence prevention and intervention,” said Hart district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker. “The safety of our students is our number one priority.”

Those efforts include physically examining campuses to see if there are ways to make them more secure, according to district officials.

The Hart district is also taking a joint approach to identify and prevent any potential threats by coordinating the efforts of school, district and law enforcement officials, said Patrick Prince, a consultant for the district.

Prince said the key to preventing violence at schools is to identify any potential threats early on and work to address any issues.

“The goal is not to put people in jail,” Prince said. “The goal is to identify behavior.”

It’s also important to understand that, since each person and situation is different, the approach for dealing with any particular issues has to be tailored to be specific, “, according to Prince.

“One size does not fit all and we have to bring the right tool to the table,” Prince said.

Classmates, teachers and parents also play a pivotal role in preventing violence, said Tony Beliz, deputy director of the emergency outreach bureau for the Los Angeles County Mental Health Department.

“Our idea is that if you intervene, good things will happen,” Beliz said.

Beliz said it is important to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to potential instances of violence.

“It’s low probability, high consequence,” said Beliz of school shootings. “And all you want to do is make sure your campus is safe.”
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