Building a Safe Community

Stevon Cook
Sep 1, 2018 · 5 min read
Balboa HS community circle

Peace and blessings to the Balboa HS community for their incredible response to such an unfortunate shooting incident that deeply troubled us all. The photo above is of a community circle happening on campus the day after the shooting. One student suffered non-threatening injuries unrelated to the discharge. The school was placed on lockdown and the suspects involved were taken into police custody.

As a country, we’ve struggled with how to end mass shootings, neighborhood gun violence, and suicides committed with guns. These are public health and safety concerns that we continue to grapple with locally and nationally. Given the increase in mass shootings across the country, we have all been on hyper alert to ensure we have measures in place to keep our children safe. I’d like to commend Superintendent Matthews, the Balboa High School faculty and SFPD for the rapid response and frequent updates we received as soon as the incident occurred.

Even as we see reductions in violent crime locally, there continue to be horrific acts of violence that deeply trouble us all. This past summer, we tragically lost Milan Adroin a staff member of SFUSD. She was 28 years old and had a four year old son. Ms. Adroin and her mother were fatally shot down in Antioch this passed July. I attended her memorial at Leadership High School, her alma mater. I never got a chance to meet Ms. Adroin, but the story of her loss deeply saddened me. We closed our opening school board meeting on August 14th in her memory,

In my role as a Commissioner, we receive briefings when former students are fatally taken from us. Occasionally, we have to oversee expulsion hearings of students that bring firearms or other dangerous weapons to school. This is the most sobering aspect of my work. We have great aspirations to create an academic experience that inspires and prepares students for a world of opportunity. These moments remind us that the world is also dangerous and it’s never east to lose good people. As a community, we are left to deal with the fallout and support one another through the pain.

We do everything in our power to keep our children safe. Part of that effort must involve better understanding the reasons behind why our children bring weapons to school, how they get access to firearms and what we can do to ensure our schools and surrounding communities are safe.

I will be following the process of healing at Balboa and visiting the school next Friday during my weekly site visits. My plan is to hear from students, educators and families about how they’re feeling and what they want to see happen at their school. The children of our city are incredibly resilient, but I’m committed to creating a learning environment where we don’t see it tested in these ways.

Superintedent Matthews released a letter the day following the incident. I’ve shared a portion of it below.

Promoting safe schools

Schools have security measures to ensure the well-being of students and staff. While each school’s security system differs based on the size and layout of its campus and other factors, security measures may include: visitor check-in procedures, locked doors after the start of the school day, surveillance cameras, school resource officers and security aides.

Furthermore, actively cultivating strong relationships at school — between students and students and students and adults — is fundamental to safety and it’s something our schools do very well. Youth face a lot of challenges and need a range of trusted adults to support them. That’s why SFUSD has more school counselors and social workers per student than almost any other school district in the state. We believe it is part of our responsibility to cultivate students’ mental health and social-emotional well-being.

We also encourage awareness and swift reporting. Serious potentially life-threatening incidents have been intercepted by staff and students reporting concerns immediately. We will continue to emphasize: If you see or hear something that may cause someone to harm themselves or others, say something.

Preparing for potential emergencies

The district has a comprehensive crisis plan in the event of a city-wide emergency, and district administrators coordinate closely with city emergency management officials and law enforcement representatives to monitor and update school site specific plans on an annual basis.

All schools have emergency response teams and are asked to practice safety protocol drills at least three times per year. Schools partner with the SF Police Department (SFPD) to conduct lockdown drills and we will continue to work with SFPD to make sure these types of drills take place in an age-appropriate way that helps ensure our students know what to do in the event that this type of incident should occur.

If an emergency does occur at a school, we will notify parents as quickly as possible using a variety of means including text, email and phone call. In order to receive messages, your child’s school must have your current contact information. To receive text messages you must opt-in to receive them (by law we cannot text you more than once without your permission). Once your mobile number is in the student information system, you will receive a message from SchoolMessenger. You can respond with a “YES.” If you already received a message from SchoolMessenger and did not opt-in, the system cannot message you again but it’s not too late to take steps to opt-in. To receive emergency text notifications, text “YES” to 67587 from your mobile phone. Please note, this will only work if your mobile number is entered correctly in the district’s system already.

More information about SFUSD’s safety and emergency plans can be found here:

SFUSD has many practices in place to keep our students safe and we are committed to doing even more to prepare for the various types of crises that could occur. As a community, let’s continue to work together to be vigilant in ensuring that our schools here and across the nation are safe and nurturing learning environments.


Dr. Vincent Matthews


Stevon Cook is Vice-President of the San Francisco Board of Education

Stevon Cook

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President, San Francisco Board of Education Values: Trust God, Do Work, Give Love & Build Wealth.

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