Keeping Schools Safe

Story and photos by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-10-27

(From L to R) Bob Erickson, Manager, Safe Schools Program, San Juan Unified School District leads the staff of Chris Cooley, Field Operations Coordinator for Safe Schools, Kevin Givens, Team Leader for Safe Schools and Barry Cox, School Resource Officer for Citrus Heights campuses within the SJUSD.

Sacramento County, CA (MPG) - Just days prior to the mass shootings in Las Vegas that left 59 dead and more than 500 wounded, Bob Erickson was presenting a day-long training for educators and staff in the San Juan Unified School District that could not have been more timely.

“Basically, we were talking about things that were done right and others that could have been done differently during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings,” said Erickson, a retired sergeant with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, now managing San Juan Unified’s Safe Schools Program.

Safe Schools is essentially the backbone of the district’s campus safety and security system, which covers all policies and procedures for initial assessments and, if necessary, responses to myriad issues and events that can go on at any one of the district’s 65 campuses in a single day, including bullying, weapons found in back packs or lockers, drug and alcohol-related offences, assaults, intruders, gang activity, suspected child abuse, and, sadly, the very real possibility of a student suicide on campus.

Established in 1988, Safe Schools operates through a partnership with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. to select, train and assign off-duty officers to serve as School Resource Officers (SROs) who patrol, monitor and respond to incidents across five designated school zones that include all 64 campuses in the district.  SROs are assigned to roughly 5 schools each, but if needed, they will cross out of their districts to support other SROs in crisis.

In addition, the Citrus Heights Police Department also participates with the provision of two, full time SROs at Mesa Verde and San Juan high schools, which sit within the SJUSD’s boundary lines.  They also will cover a crisis if needed at other schools in Sacramento County’s unincorporated areas.

All calls for SRO assistance that are not initiated through a 911 call for police are filtered through a Safe Schools dispatcher at the district offices in Carmichael.  And, while the majority of dispatched calls for an SRO response are not lock-down or high-level emergencies like Sandy Hook or Vegas, as unlikely as they are to occur, according to Erickson, trainings for campus shootings are necessary and, in the recent case, involved the keen eye of hindsight to in reinforcing protocol.

“The seminar was called ‘Lessons Learned From Sandy Hook,’ and I started out by saying the chances of a school shooting happening on one of our campuses are very slim,” says Erickson.  “We are constantly aware that a school campus or workplace shooting can happen anywhere, but statistically, the odds are very low that we will have a campus shooting like Sandy Hook.  That said, someone always wins the lottery. Our trainings are not to scare anyone, but we need to be prepared.”

District-wide staff trainings like these, as well as a regular review of policies and procedures for handling an entire range of campus emergencies are held roughly every three months for teachers and staff, along with SRO representatives and other Safe School team members.  

All schools in the district are required to have a "Comprehensive School Safety Plan” in place that should be made available for public review at any time. 

In the case of Sandy Hook, says Erickson, many teachers and students exposed themselves to the gunman by trying to run first rather than hide, following a previously standardized policy of run, hide, fight, which today winds counter to the tactic advocated by many Safe Schools teams, including San Juan’s.

“Here in the San Juan School District, we look at it as hide, run, fight,” says Erickson.  “If you can run to safety, do it.  But if you are not sure, we advocate hiding first.  At Sandy Hook, you had teachers who hid kids in cupboards and other places and called 911.  That was exactly the thing to do.  In other instances, however, teachers heard shots and went out to investigate and they were killed.  So if you hear something that sounds like a shot, it’s probably a shot and you should hide.”

In addition, first responder protocol has also changed, according to Erickson, since the Columbine school shooting in Colorado in 1999.

“Before Columbine, law enforcement or SROs would arrive on the scene, form what’s called a ‘perimeter’ around the school, and then wait for reinforcements before going in,” said Erickson.  “Now, they are trained to just go in.”

Trainings rotate from campus to campus and are usually held on shortened days in the afternoon to ensure everyone who wants to attend can, Erickson said.  In a few weeks another “active shooter” and high-alert response workshop will take place.  Attendees will be given a range of scenarios, broken up into groups and charged to each come up with their own strategies for effective response.

One aspect that also gets emphasized in active shooter trainings that will also be highlighted, is the concept of friendly fire.  Erickson explains it best.

“One of the things we also emphasize is a hands up policy,” Erickson said.  “If you are walking on the campus during a lockdown and law enforcement is there with weapons drawn, you always want to keep your hands where they can see them. Hands are what kill people. The hand is needed to make the gun go off.”

The district is also amidst implementation of a campus fencing program launched several years ago.  According to Keith Reed with the schools facilities department, a total of eight campuses identified as high-priority sites, such as Del Campo High School, now have fences.  At a cost of $1 million, the pace of the project is slow and, cautions Reed, they serve as deterrents, not guarantees against the possibility of a high-alert crisis.

“The fencing helps, but really the focus is to serve as a deterrent, which is why we have the SROs and trainings in place,” Reed said.  “They are designed in a way that forces visitors to enter the campus through the main office and they are not cheap, so completion is based on when funding comes available.  But we do prioritize based on the needs of each school.”

Greif counselors are also part of the Safe Schools team and are trained to provide support to school counselors and psychologists in the district in responding to a crisis, such as a student suicide and other highly charged, emotional events.

“Sadly, we do have student suicides in schools,” says Erickson.  “It happens. And when it does we have staff who are trained to comfort those in crisis and help allow students to have their emotions. We never want to advocate for anything else.”

Student threats against schools are common.  And, it’s Erickson’s job, working with Safe Schools team members, to identify those threats, discern which are real and respond accordingly.  As unlikely as mass shootings in schools are, in all cases where they have occurred, according to Erickson, there were warning signs.

“Kids post threats against their schools on social media all the time,” says Erickson.  “It’s almost weekly that the threats come in.  Now, is it likely the student is going to come (to school) with a loaded gun?  No.  But we take every single threat as if it were real.  Every shooting we’ve had (in the country) there was a message sent out by the shooter in advance.  In cases where we do perceive the potential of a threat to be real, we will go out to visit homes. We’ll find out if there are guns registered at the house. We look in (students’) bedrooms, we check it out to see what’s going.”

While parents have not been flooding the district since the Vegas shootings to ask about their school’s safety plans, they do call.  Regularly. And their calls, says Erickson, are important.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve had any calls of concern about Vegas or since that event,” says Erickson.  But we do get calls from parents every day about something and when we do, I investigate it, triage it and if there is something we need to respond to, we do.  Believe me, I spend a lot of my day on the telephone just talking to parents to assure them that we are all about student safety, safety for all the students and the staff and the families.”

For more information about Safe Schools, visit

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Railroad Museum to Showcase a “BIG Weekend of Small Trains”

By Traci Rockefeller Cusack   |  2017-10-27

Come enjoy the “BIG Weekend of Small Trains”. Photo provided by T-Rock Communications

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - California State Parks and the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation have exciting plans to dazzle and delight visitors with a special “BIG Weekend of Small Trains” on Saturday, November 4 and Sunday, November 5, 2017. 

Typically held the weekend after Thanksgiving, this family-favorite small train extravaganza has been moved earlier in the month and will serve to help to kick off the holiday season this year. The special event showcases a magical assortment of trains, hundreds of feet of track and an array of buildings and accessories. For the “BIG Weekend of Small Trains,” local organizations and devoted enthusiasts will set up shop in the Museum, filling the Roundhouse with delightful model and toy train layouts of every description while being surrounded by impressive full-scale locomotives. Visitors of all ages will marvel at the variety of locomotives that pull pretend passengers and scaled-down shipments through all kinds of scenery, whether modeled on real places or created in the imaginations of the collectors.

“BIG Weekend of Small Trains” visitors are also encouraged to explore the Museum that is home to 225,000 square feet of exhibits and beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives that illustrate railroad history in California and the West.

All “BIG Weekend of Small Trains” activities are included with Museum admission: $12 for adults; $6 for youths ages 6-17; free for children ages 5 and under. For more information about the reading program or the California State Railroad Museum in general, please call 916-323-9280 or visit

Source: T-Rock Communications

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FBI Announces Results of Operation Cross Country XI

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), announced October 18th, that 84 minors were recovered and 120 traffickers were arrested as part of Operation Cross Country XI, a nationwide effort focusing on underage human trafficking that ran from October 12-15, 2017.  

Within the FBI Sacramento field office’s 34-county area of responsibility, the FBI and its law enforcement partners conducted operations in the four metropolitan areas: Chico, Fresno, Sacramento, and South Lake Tahoe. Local recoveries of minors and pimping arrests during Operation Cross Country are as follows:

  • Thursday, October 12, 2017
    Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department recovered one minor
  • Friday, October 13, 2017
    FBI and Chico Police Department recovered one minor    
  • Saturday, October 14, 2017
    Porterville Police Department arrested an adult male on felony pimping charges.

In addition to successful recovery of two minors and the arrest of a pimp, more than 23 arrests were made for a variety of charges including prostitution and probation violations. The following agencies participated in Operation Cross Country XI. Butte County District Attorney’s Office, El Dorado District Attorney’s Office, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, Fresno Police Department, Hanford Police Department, Placer County Sheriff’s Department, Porterville Police Department, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, Sacramento County Probation Department, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento Police Department, South Lake Tahoe Police Department, and Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.

This is the 11th iteration of the FBI-led Operation Cross Country (OCC), which took place this year in 55 FBI field offices and involved 78 state and local task forces, consisting of hundreds of law enforcement partners. This year’s coordinated operations took place with several international partners, including Canada (Operation Northern Spotlight), the United Kingdom (Aident 8), Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines. 

“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm.  Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested—and the number of children recovered—reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This operation isn't just about taking traffickers off the street. It's about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse."

As part of Operation Cross Country XI, FBI agents and task force officers staged operations in hotels, casinos, and truck stops, as well as on street corners and Internet websites. The youngest victim recovered during this year’s operation was 3 months old, and the average age of victims recovered during the operation was 15 years old. Minors recovered during Cross Country Operations are offered assistance from state protective services and the FBI’s Victim Services Division. Depending on the level of need, victims are offered medical and mental health counseling, as well as a number of other services. 

“Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America, and at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day,” said NCMEC President and CEO John Clark. “We’re proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims. We hope OCC generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation’s children.”

Operation Cross Country XI is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003 and has yielded more than 6,500 child identifications and locations. For additional information on Operation Cross Country XI and the Innocence Lost initiative, please visit

Examples of stories from various cities that took part in Operation Cross Country XI:

On October 13th, FBI Denver recovered two minor girls—one 3-month-old and one 5-year-old. The subject, a friend of the children's family, offered an undercover officer access to the two children for sexual purposes in exchange for $600. The FBI is working with Child Protective Services to conduct a forensic interview and secure safe placement of the children. The subject was placed under arrest.

Also on October 13th, a 16-year old female victim was recovered by FBI El Paso, after an undercover agent called an online advertisement for entertainment. Shortly thereafter, the agent met with a 21-year-old female, who offered a fee of $200 to engage in sexual intercourse with her and another female, the 16-year-old victim. Further investigations revealed that a second adult female drove the minor and the 21-year-old to the undercover’s location. Both female subjects have been arrested on federal charges.   

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Virtual Tour Explains Challenges of Dementia

By Rick Beasley  |  2017-10-23

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Dementia is not a disease.  It is a broad term used to describe a slow, severe decline in memory and reasoning skills that impact and interfere with daily life.  Even though the prevalence rate of dementia has fallen dramatically in recent years, there are still over 7 million American seniors today that have some form of dementia.

There are a large number of recognized diseases associated with dementia—Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome,  Lewy bodies to name just a few.  Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most prevalent and recognized form of dementia.  There are presently 5.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.  Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds (American Alzheimer’s Association).  That is 500,000 additional Americans every year.  By 2050, that number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase to 16 million.

Alzheimer’s disease results in the loss of brain cells and cognitive functioning abilities.  Even though it is a progressively degenerative and ultimately fatal disease, Alzheimer’s can be managed with treatment, care and changes to in daily environment and living conditions.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of the aging process.  However, increasing age is the number one risk factor involving the disease-with the vast majority of afflictions occurring in people 65 and older.

Family histories and genetics are not a major factor in the development of Alzheimer’s.  Some rare forms of dementia (such as Huntington’s disease) are inherited, but having a parent or grandparent with Alzheimer’s does not increase your overall risks compared to the rest of the population.  Less than 1% of all Alzheimer’s cases are thought to be linked genetically (Dr. Nick Fox, Institute of Neurology in London).

There are ten generally recognized warning signs of Alzheimer’s, that range from daily memory losses to decreased difficulties completing familiar tasks, to dramatic changes in moods and personalities.  Typical and normal age related changes, such as occasionally forgetting some names or appointment or misplacing items from time to time are not considered markers for Alzheimer’s.  A normal age related question would be:  “Where are my car keys?”  An Alzheimer’s warning sign might be:  “What are these keys for?”

There are a number of educational programs and seminars relating to Alzheimer’s research, care and development.  One such program is the Virtual Dementia Tour (developed by Second Wind Dreams), which briefly simulates dementia on a user in a controlled environment.  This tour is approximately 20 minutes long and consists of a 5 minute guided tour segment where the user is instructed to perform simple, household tasks while having simulated dementia characteristics, followed by an overview, cool down and debriefing period that explains what they had just experienced.  This program is intended to help provide understanding and empathy towards those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Carlie Beasley, of Summerset Assisted Living in Rancho Cordova, has been effectively using this program and finding immediate results, commenting:  “Our staff and family members have had dramatic experiences after going through this tour.  It has made a noticeable difference on how our staff interacts with memory care residents and how much more tolerant and empathetic family members are in dealing with their loved ones.”  Beasley is so impressed by the initial results of the tour, that she has offered to have her Summerset team provide this tour to anyone interested within the general public, adding:  “This is a compelling and possibly life-changing event that anyone remotely associated or touched by the effects of dementia should experience”.  Beasley can be reached at (916) 330-1300 or by visiting Summerset Rancho Cordova Assisted Living and Memory Care center at 2341 Vehicle Drive in Rancho Cordova.

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Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - With the time change comes greater danger. Awareness and conflict avoidance are first steps.

Robinson’s Taekwondo offers a free clinic on personal safety and self-defense just for women.  Women are especially vulnerable as they are often exposed to danger as they pick up and drop off family members in school, run errands or shop for the holidays in the early dark. This is a special night of self-defense, safety and conflict avoidance with Black Belts and extra special tips, treats and temptations from style, fashion, makeup and more for the ladies!

Plan to attend this safety awareness and simple self-defense clinic, our instructors will help raise awareness of dangerous situations and locations, show how to escape an attacker’s hold and give everyone who attends a safety ‘mindset’.

Experts and vendors will also attend to share ideas, tips and treats with those attending.

The event is being held at all Regional participating Robinson’s Taekwondo locations across the Sacramento area on Friday Night, October 27, 2017 at 6:30pm

This special community service event is FREE, but failing to be aware and prepared to survive a very high price to pay! Be safe not sorry later, but register today!

Visit to register. Click on Events! 

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Women's Empowerment Receives $25K from US Bank

By Kristin Thébau  |  2017-10-18

U.S. Bank Foundation representative Pam Maxwell presents check to Women’s Empowerment’s board of directors and executive director Lisa Culp.

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - U.S. Bank Foundation’s Community Possible program has awarded a $25,000 grant to Women’s Empowerment. The grant will support classes and programs that help homeless women gain the skills and confidence they need to secure a job and create a brighter future for their children. 

“We are so impressed with U.S. Bank’s commitment to breaking the cycle of homelessness in our community,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “This generous donation will ensure homeless women can get a job, become financially self-sufficient and provide their children with a safe, stable home. We are very grateful to U. S. Bank for their investment in ending homelessness.”

In Women’s Empowerment’s initial nine-week program, women who are homeless receive free onsite child care in the group’s child development center and transportation assistance. Each woman works with a master’s level social worker to address her root causes of homelessness. She attends classes on job-readiness, financial literacy, confidence building, health and empowerment, as well as support groups for domestic violence and substance abuse. Women then focus on job placement with their employment specialist and volunteer career mentor. 

Women who have graduated from the nine-week program can enroll in the group’s graduate services at any point in their lives when they need assistance. Services include paid job training, vocational certifications, counseling with a social worker and employment specialist, access to a professional clothing closet, and job retention services for employer and employee.  

“The building blocks of a thriving community where all things are possible include stable employment opportunities, a home to call your own and a community connected through a culture of arts, recreation and play,” said Jessica Cook, product manager with U.S. Bank and Women's Empowerment board member. “Women's Empowerment provides the most comprehensive solution in Sacramento for women and children who are homeless. At U.S. Bank we believe in Community Possible and are proud to have Women's Empowerment as one of our partners in Sacramento.”

Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and receives no government funding except for in-kind rent from the County of Sacramento. To make a donation:

Community Possible is the corporate giving and volunteer program at U.S. Bank, focused on the areas of Work, Home and Play. The company invests in programs that provide stable employment, a safe place to call home and a community connected through arts, culture, recreation and play. Philanthropic support through the U.S. Bank Foundation and corporate giving program reached $54.2 million in 2016. Visit

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at

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Sacramento Arts Festival Celebrates Twentieth Anniversary 

MPG Staff  |  2017-10-18

John Lane, of John Lane Photography, will be displaying his photographs at the upcoming Sacramento Arts Festival, November 3 – 5, at the Sacramento Convention Center Complex.Photos courtesy c3 Communications, Inc.

Sacramento Region, CA  (MPG) - The 20th Annual Sacramento Arts Festival, considered the best ever in quality and variety, returns to the Sacramento Convention Center from November 3 through November 5. The festival has become not only the premier art and craft show in the Central Valley, but is also one of the top art festivals in the country.

Local favorite John Lane of Carmichael and John Lane Photography, will be displaying his photographs at the upcoming Arts Festival.

Strolling through the festival, attendees can shop from a vast selection of extraordinary art and contemporary craft.  Visitors can choose from ceramics, clothing, decorative fiberworks, furniture, glass, gourd art, jewelry, leather, metalworks, paper, stone, woodworks, drawings, oil and acrylic paintings, watercolors, sculpture, photography and two and three dimensional mixed media.

Festival attendees can shop for themselves, their homes and for one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts.  There is something for everyone including:

The festival includes 225 of America’s best contemporary craftspeople and fine artists offering more than 15,000 original works. It will feature both local and national artists from 11 states, as far away as New York

There will be special demonstrations of craft and art where attendees can meet and talk with the talented artists and craftspeople about how they make their unique items

Also included will be delicious festival food featuring Spiro’s Gyros (Greek), Indian Gourmet, American cuisine, and five vendors selling take home food, as well as continuous live Main Stage entertainment including the GG Amos Blues Band, The Kurt Ribak Jazz Quartet, and Gabe Lewin on guitar

The event is planned for Friday through Sunday, November 3 – 5. Times are Friday 10am to 6pm,  Saturday 10am to 6pm,  and Sunday from 10am to 5pm, at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St. (Entrance at 14th and J Streets), Sacramento, CA 95814. Admission is $8 Adults, $7 Seniors, with children under 12 free. For more information, tickets and $1 off coupon please visit

Source: c3 Communications, Inc.

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