With a new school year beginning, the Visalia Police Department, in partnership with the Visalia Unified School District, continues to take steps to ensure that our youth have a safe learning environment.

Active shooter incidents have increased throughout the nation during the last few years and, unfortunately, these tragic events oftentimes occur on school campuses. As a result of these senseless acts of violence and heightened sensitivity, both the Visalia Police Department and the Visalia Unified School District continuously work together to identify and deter potential acts of violence from occurring on our school campuses, and have implemented additional security measures to help prevent such tragedies.

In addition to one sergeant, the Visalia Police Department’s Youth Services Unit consists of 10 youth services officers assigned to each of the five high schools and five middle schools in the Visalia Unified School District. The youth services officers also provide services to the 23 feeder elementary schools in our city. The role of the youth services officer is to provide guidance and police services to the students and staff of the Visalia Unified School District through instruction, mentoring, counseling and enforcement. Additionally, our youth service officers provide a presence on campus to keep our children safe, prevent crime and investigate threats in partnership with school staff.

Together, both agencies are committed to ensuring that both youth and school staff are educated about the warning signs that might lead to threats or acts of violence as well as effective response strategies to prevent or intervene in the event that a threat is made. These threats are taken seriously and are prioritized to quickly assess the nature of the threat and determine if such threat is credible – including those made on social media. This consists of taking security measures such as conducting school “lockdowns” and increasing police presence at affected school campuses.

Joint training sessions are also conducted and involve members of public safety (including fire) and school district staff. This involves tabletop exercises, active shooter scenarios/training, practice drills at schools and debriefings of any incidents that may occur throughout the school year.

Even with increased prevention efforts and security measures, these tragic incidents can occur. Everyone must remain vigilant.

“See Something, Say Something” has become a powerful public service announcement that encourages anyone to report anything they may see or hear. The greatest deterrent that we have to prevent threats or acts of violence at our schools is our own involvement with our children. Parents can help by discussing these important issues with their children, monitoring their children’s social media activities, and intervening if you see behaviors in your child that could lead to self-harm or harm to others.

School safety and the wellbeing of our children is a shared responsibility – if you hear or see something, say something!