Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill addressed the concerns of students, parents, teachers and the Burbank community with a letter released today, February 22, in the wake of the Miami suburb of Parkland, FL, school shooting last week.
On February 14, 17 people were killed and 14 injured, during a six-minute rampage at Stoneman Douglas High School. The alleged assailant, 19-year-old Nikolas Jacob Cruz, was arrested shortly afterward and confessed to using an AR-15 style semi-automatic weapon in his attack, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
Student survivors of this shooting, one of the deadliest school massacres recorded, have been outspoken about access to AR-15 style weapons, which are not used for hunting and typically used for target practice, military training and in theaters of war.
Responding to nationwide calls by students for walkouts at schools and policy change at state and national levels, Superintendent Hill released this letter to the Burbank Unified School District community:
Dear BUSD Families, Employees, and Community:
Given the alarming increase in the number of mass killings taking place at American schools, concerts, churches, and government buildings, all of us are experiencing a heightened level of stress, fear, and concern. I want to assure all of you that we are working closely with the Burbank Police Department to review and increase our safety measures. All of our schools have safety and emergency plans. Our school sites review these plans on an annual basis and practice drills regularly throughout the school year.
Supporting Our Students
In addition, all of our schools have access to counseling and psychological supports for our students and employees. If any child or employee needs support, they can reach out in a confidential manner to gain support they need. Individuals may also contact Family Service Agency of Burbank (FSA) directly at (818) 845-7671. The best proactive approach to prevent tragic events like the ones we have witnessed is to ensure all individuals have access to quality support and care.
Here are some resources you may find helpful:
Helping Youth After Community Trauma: Tips for Educators
Talking to Children About Violence
Addressing Grief: Tips for Teachers and Administrators
Please note, we take all threats seriously. If someone sees or hears something that is out of the ordinary, they need to report it to school administrators and/or the police. Unfortunately, today we experienced a social media hoax directed at Burbank High School. Upon hearing about this, we immediately worked with the Burbank Police Department to identify that the threat was not credible. It was determined that the threat received today involved Belen High School (BHS) in the state of New Mexico. We have included the link to the story here: http://www.news-bulletin.com/news/police-bhs-sophomore-admits-to-posting-threat/article_f3ef511e-17f1-11e8-8e51-271e78bc4634.html These types of threats are unlawful, regardless of intention, and may result in serious criminal and civil consequences that include possible financial restitution for hours spent on investigations.
Nationally Scheduled Walkouts
We are aware of a series of scheduled walk-outs being organized by various groups across the nation. While I fully support students and adults having the opportunity to express their concerns and opinions, I want to ensure those activities take place in a safe and productive manner. As your superintendent, I have decided that we will have age-appropriate activities at each school site on March 14 at 10am to accomplish this goal.
- Each elementary school will leverage the curriculum they are using to promote peace, tolerance, and mindfulness.
- Each secondary school will work with their student bodies (ASB) to develop an event / activity based on our students’ needs. We want to ensure youth voices are empowered and supported. Over the past week, I have had several conversation with students who are interested in forums where they can ask questions and get answers. We will work with our students to provide resources and create a safe space for these questions to be discussed/answered. Below is a sample of some of the questions I have received:
Voting and Policy Questions
- What are you adults going to do to ensure we are safe at school?
- How do I register to vote before age 18?
- How do I find out my elected officials’ views on gun rights/gun control?
- Why does anyone need to own a semiautomatic rifle?
- Who do I speak with or write to express my opinion on legislation/policy changes?
Mental Health Resources
- What resources are available to me or my friends?
- How can we get the money for more wellness support?
- What additional security measures can you put in place in our schools?
- Where can we get additional money to put in more security?
- Why are we turning our schools into prisons (buzzers, locks, security, metal detectors, bullet proof film, etc.)?
- When I leave the school and cross the street, who is going to protect me then?
I am sure we will receive many more questions that we will need to address. To be candid, I am saddened that these are the questions our students must ask at this time. Our students should be asking about their futures, not about whether or not they are going to live. Some adults have shared with me that this is just how we live now. I do not accept that answer. I am inspired by the leadership of our children and I hope they will inspire all of us to do something different.
To be very clear about one question I have received – I will never recommend that our teachers be required or have the option to have a gun on campus. The last thing we need to do is spend money on firearms training and guns. On the contrary, our teachers and students need funding and support so that they can focus on teaching and learning.
While we are in the midst of some very dark days, I am encouraged by the feedback I have received so far from the community of Burbank. We all can work together to ensure a brighter future for our children, families, staff, and our community. As your superintendent, please know that I am here for you and remain focused on making the changes necessary to protect our students and staff.
Burbank Unified School District
(818) 729-4422 (o)
(818) 299-1941 (c)
“Equity and Excellence”