Schools now checking campus visitors through databases.

"School safety is foremost on our minds. We think about it every day," said Taft Union High School Superintendent Blanca Cavazos.

Cavazos Taft College Superintendent-President Deb Daniels and Taft City School District Superintendent Julie Graves joined Taft Chief of Police Damon McMinn to discuss safety in Taft's schools and the community at the annual State of the City luncheon.

The schools are going to great lengths to keep kids safe.

A little over six years ago, Taft Union was the site of a school shooting that critically injured one student and sent his assailant to prison.

School officials have learned from that incidents and school shootings -- "as horrible as they are"- to make Taft Union a safer school.

One was working with students to foster an atmosphere where they care about each other and will be more likely to report information before violence occurs.

"If they feel good about each other they help each other," Cavazos said.

Taft Union's Human Element Class was formed to "change the school culture and make it better," she said.

In most school shootings, Blanca said, someone knew about it before hand. The school has ways for students to report potential problems anonymously.

Many other steps are being taken, including the use of a school resource officer to work on truancy and enforce both the California penal Code and education Code.

Computers and new software programs also help take TUHS safer.

The Raptor Visitor Management software screens visitors to the school to make sure they are safe, and a system called Share 911 enables staff to communicate with each other and law enforcement in case of emergencies.

For the Taft City School District, school safety is an integral part of the state-mandated Local Control and Accountability Plan, Graves said.
Like TUHSD, the TCSD has a school resource officer and is taking other steps for student safety, including secure entries ways to all schools where visitors must be buzzed in through safety indoors to access the campus.

The District is also returning to having one principal at all school sites and has added an extra school nurse.
The TCSD is also going to use Raptor technology, which runs a scan of a person's driver's license to check them against law enforcement databases.

Taft College is working to protect the students with a full-time campus security officer and four part-time security officers working nights and weekends.

It is also working hard on internet security.

Hacking attacks are a very real threat, Daniels said. Recently, East Los Angeles College was hacked and had its information held locked until a "ransom" was paid.

"It's not if your going to get hacked, its when and how good are they? How sophisticated are they?" Daniels said.

The college spent $100,000 on security software.

Taft School's are operating in a community that is actually a little safer.

McMinn said crime to date is down 18 percent in Taft, and he credits some hard work and proactive policing by his officers.

"Much of Taft's crime is caused by a small group of people," he said.

"Ten to 15 people are causing all of our problems," the chief said. "We know who they are and we know when they get out of jail."