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Schools keep watch after massacre

Local campuses assure parents and students developing 'culture of safety' is their highest priority.

April 18, 2007|By Michael Miller

Local educators expressed shock and sadness after Monday's shooting at Virginia Tech, with public schools sending home letters to parents and colleges and universities putting security forces on heightened alert.

The massacre was the deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history. Afterward, every school in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District issued a letter to families assuring them that campuses make safety a top priority.

Orange Coast College and UC Irvine also sent out e-mails to students and faculty, while both campuses asked their safety personnel to keep a watchful eye.

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"I want to assure all UC Irvine students, faculty, staff and their families that, while we cannot always anticipate or prevent acts of violence on campus, maintaining a safe environment is our highest priority," UCI Chancellor Michael Drake wrote in a release. "We strive to develop a culture of safety among our students, our staff and all members of the campus community. Our violence prevention programs are designed to identify and resolve issues before they become serious."

UCI spokesman Tom Vasich said university police heightened their presence on campus Tuesday in case students felt unsafe.

"While we're not on any kind of specific alert, we are making an effort to be more visible on campus," he said.

OCC announced plans to hold a convocation on Thursday in memory of the victims of the shooting. John Farmer, the head of OCC's safety department, said he had met with the campus' crisis alert committee to review safety protocols. Following Monday's shooting, a number of people criticized Virginia Tech for reacting to the violence too slowly.

"We're looking into different responses that would heighten communication with the campus community," Farmer said. "One of the ideas that was brought out was a campus P.A. system with an alert siren. We've got emergency phones in every single classroom on campus, and basically they're set up for dialing out in case of an emergency. What we want to do is get the district involved to make them conduits for information coming into the classroom."

Officials at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa did not return calls seeking comment.

Newport-Mesa administrators sent a letter to parents Monday afternoon, reminding them that the district had an emergency response plan and that each school had an individual plan as well. A number of school administrators, however, said Monday and Tuesday had passed without incident.

"We got no reaction on this one at all," said Corona del Mar High School Principal Fal Asrani. "Not even an e-mail [from parents]. We've really been continuing school the regular way."

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