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Teachers and parents concerned as ‘loaded gun’ incident revealed at valley high school 6 days later

The Coachella Valley Unified School District superintendent is apologizing for a lack of transparency about an incident last week in which a student brought a loaded gun to school.

Parents and teachers didn't get the whole story until yesterday – 6 days after it happened.

The incident happened on Friday, January 20, according to an email Superintendent Luis Valentino wrote to district families. He said a custodian at Coachella Valley High School caught a student smoking and called security.

A loaded gun was discovered in the student's backpack, Valentino said.

"As a parent or community member, we have the right to know what's happening," said CVUSD parent Monica Galvez.

Coachella Valley High School principal Socorro Sanchez first notified the school community of the incident in an email the day it happened – but she did not mention a loaded weapon.

In the email, Sanchez wrote, "At the end of the school day, an object was found on a student... At no time was there a threat to the safety of our students and staff."

A representative from Sanchez's office declined to speak with News Channel 3.

"I think everybody was in danger. There was a potential for a tragic event," said Coachella Valley Teachers Association president Carissa Carrera.

She said district teachers are concerned by the incident and the lack of communication, which is critical during campus safety events.

Superintendent Valentino followed up Thursday on Sanchez's note, saying, "I want to acknowledge that the information was not fully transparent and created some anxiety. I apologize for that."

Carrera said she is not aware of any protocols in place for how the district should communicate with parents and staff about safety incidents – though she said there has been positive progress.

"It is concerning that it took them six days," Carrera said. "The parents and the staff deserve better than that. I think that they need to have a transparent communication immediately."

"If we don't get that communication, we're gonna lose the trust," said Galvez. "Because as parents, we start just asking questions. Why didn't we get the information until a week after? ... It only creates more anxiety among the community, than answers."

A school district spokesperson wrote in a statement to News Channel 3:

On Friday, January 20, a few seconds before the bell rang at the end of the school day, a student was taken to the office for a non violent situation which did not pose a threat to students and staff. Upon inspection of the student’s backpack school staff found an object that looked like a weapon. Staff immediately contacted law enforcement and the Sheriff’s department took over the investigation. During this week, as the investigation unfolded, we found more information that could be shared with CVHS students and staff. As part of our effort to continue to be transparent, Superintendent Dr. Valentino notified CVHS staff and families about the findings as soon as we were able to. 

Our communication protocols require that schools communicate with their staff and families when a weapon, lockdown or incident is occurring or has occurred at their site. In regards to this incident, families and staff were notified the day of the incident and more information was revealed a few days after the investigation unfolded. 

Our District continues to diligently improve our safety, security and emergency communications efforts by investing in training and implementation. Some of these efforts include training all district and school staff before the end of this school year on active shooter incidents, implementing our Raptor emergency communications system and improving our systems and procedures when new incidents arise locally and nationally.

CVUSD spokesperson

President of the CVUSD Board of Trustees Adonis Galarza-Toledo responded in a statement, writing:

I’d like to acknowledge the great work of our site staff members and administrators who quickly acted and dealt with the situation to get rid of any potential threat to the safety and lives of our students, staff, and teachers. The school district continues to work to improve our communication strategy to meet needs and expectations of our community while at the same time following confidentiality laws. Unfortunately, the school district is not always at liberty of sharing all the information regarding an incident. Although, I do believe this is an opportunity for the school district and the community to come together and actively work towards keeping our students and communities safe. As the district continues to enhance our safety measures and protocols, I would like to ask help from our parents, guardians, and community members. Please stay involved in your children’s lives, if you own any guns, please make sure they are locked and put away. Check your student belongings and backpacks for any weapons or drugs. Know who your child is hanging out with. If you believe your child or someone you know needs help, let us know and we will make sure they receive the resources they need. 

Adonis Galarza-Toledo, CVUSD Board President

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Jake Ingrassia

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