CUSD disputes advocate’s school safety concerns - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD disputes advocate’s school safety concerns

January 17th, 2022 development
CUSD disputes advocate’s school safety concerns

By Paul Maryniak, Executive Editor

Chandler Unified School District is rebutting what a spokesman called “some false or incomplete information” in a letter it received about its school safety protocols.

Katey McPherson, a mother of four CUSD students and a well-known advocate for improved mental health services for young people, last month wrote the administration and Governing Board about her concerns in the aftermath of the fatal school shooting in Michigan in November and a subsequent school-shooter scare at a Michigan school district attended by her sister’s kids.

McPherson expressed a number of concerns, including the “need to increase parent awareness around sharing, re-sharing and inciting more chaos during a potential lockdown.”

In response, district spokesman Terry Locke said, “Our Community Relations team produced a video for the safety/security division School Emergency Protocols for Parents and Guardians. This parent response video was sent to parents and posted on the CUSD safety website.

“It details the dangers of parents sharing misinformation and provides direction for parents during a critical incident, Locke said. The video is at

Locke also said the district “has initiated and implemented a Speak Up for Safety anonymous reporting program that has been in place for two years” and utilized at all grade levels and that cards were handed out to students that advertised that program.

In addition, he said, “a service called Gaggle monitors students’ writing to look for key words such as suicide, alcohol, drugs, bullying, profanity, etc. School and district administrators are notified of anything concerning. Students and parents are contacted by administrators and/or counselors.”

Locke said administrators last year “reviewed training video links divided into three age-appropriate videos to assist schools with options other than lockdowns to include barricading and when to flee” and that the video is on the CUSD safety website.

“All of our sites exercise evacuation drills in conjunction with law enforcement agencies,” he added. “Elementary schools are required to participate every two years.”

 Locke also disputed McPherson’s criticism of how regularly the district assesses every school’s infrastructure.

Stating Chandler Unified is “one of few districts that have elementary campus security (ECS) officers assigned to their sites,” he said they “assist administrators with emergency plans and conduct daily walkthrough of sites.

“Our sites’ infrastructure is reviewed not just periodically, but daily,” he said. “In addition, we had a comprehensive threat vulnerability assessment completed at all schools. These were hours-long assessments completed by law enforcement personnel.  This project was very thorough, taking months to complete.”

He also said administrators in 2019 took an eight-hour training course taught by Chandler police and firefighters.

“Lauded as a unique and forward-thinking program that allows for open communication and collaboration,” the training covered “social media awareness, stop-the-bleed and CPR overview, what to expect with fire and law enforcement response,” he said. “It proved to be a very comprehensive course and valuable to our administrators.”

He also said the district has conducted a campaign that addresses “the consequences of social media,” which also is on the district’s website. “The video interviews law enforcement who drive home the point of the possible actions of statements that be considered threatening in nature to others,” he said.

Locke said safety plans for the entire district and individual schools “are reviewed and updated every year” and shared with public safety agencies in Queen Creek, Gilbert and Chandler – all homes to district schools.

“Sites have School Safety Prevention and Assessment Team in place for an approach with multidisciplinary teams meeting to include counselors, security, administrators, nurses to discuss safety issues,” he said.

 In response to McPherson’s questions about whether the district has tried to assess the pandemic’s impact on student well-being and other safety and mental health issues by surveying and talking with students, Locke said:

“We garner student feedback and are very cognizant to include their ideas and solutions. The counseling and social services department focuses on reaching out to groups of students at our high schools. Some of their feedback became a part of our student wellness initiative response.

“All of CUSD student wellness pieces focus on prevention and on evidence-based curriculum,” he said, adding parents and staff are brought into education and training related to safety.

“The safety of our community is of utmost importance,” he said. “CUSD recognizes that staff, students, law enforcement and the community as a whole has important roles to play in this effort.”

 McPherson fired back at Locke’s letter, which contained many specifics that were not part of CUSD Superintendent Frank Narducci’s initial response to her letter last month.

“My email asked for an ongoing social media awareness campaign not a video … from three years ago that no one knows about. How are they addressing the impact that social media has on safety? They did not even respond to the TikTok challenge threat to their teachers.”

McPherson also said that Locke made no mention of her question on whether children have been trained “in how to run, hide, fight” like her nieces in Michigan.

“So they did a one-time assessment of threat,” McPherson said. “I asked if the admin conducted this every year as suggested by Steve Dieu of Chandler PD and other national experts. So the answer is no. I have never seen an elementary security guard doing walk throughs, by the way and I was a PTO mom. I have seen them patrolling at night.”

She also noted that while Locke said training ahd been conducted for administrators for eight hours in 2019, “I asked if there was yearly training conducted. He said eight hours in 2019. So the answer is no.”

McPherson also said there was no mention of student-driven committees and that “no committee exists for pandemic related student input” or any avenue for input for K-8 students.

 “I would like to know which evidence-based curriculum they are using,” she added. “He can’t even name the programs because they don’t have any.”

“He did not address my main concern: are you continuously assessing kids for risk and if so, how? Do you have behavioral health teams at each campus? if so, who trained them and what model are you using?” McPherson said.

Asked if any governing board members had responded to her email, which had gone to them as well last month, McPherson said only one briefly replied.