When San Francisco police responded to what was believed to be an active-shooter situation at June Jordan School for Equity last week, officers were met with confused staff who told them to put their guns down, according to multiple sources.
The shooters opened fire in the parking lot Oct. 18 and were on the run — outside the school. There was no reason for officers to search the building, staff apparently reasoned, not realizing that police procedures require them to clear the campus for potential threats.
Four students were shot and four others injured in the shooting. Authorities have not released an update on their conditions but have said they are recovering.
The incident sheds light on an apparent problem within the San Francisco Unified School District that has the potential to endanger students, staff and officers during an active-shooter situation.
Even with the June Jordan shooting happening last week and school shootings unfolding with increased regularity across the nation, there is no mandate for San Francisco schools to receive active-shooter training from police.
Colleen Fatooh, a retired San Francisco police lieutenant who previously coordinated the school resource officer program, said there has been active-shooter training for schools in the past, but not enough.
“This needs to be like a fire drill where kids know what to do,” Fatooh said.
“We’ve done ‘run, hide and fight’ with a couple of schools,” said Fatooh, referring to a method of responding to active shooters. “But as far as going out and having like a schedule, as far as the comprehensive piece, I don’t think that’s happened.”
In 2014, the SFUSD and the San Francisco Police Department entered into a hotly debated Memorandum of Understanding that laid out the roles of police in schools, but much of the conversation focused on ensuring that schools are not a pipeline to prison.
The agreement requires annual training for school resource officers in areas like restorative practices and special education laws, but lacks a mandate for active-shooter training between the agencies.
When asked whether the SFUSD has plans to implement active-shooter training, district spokesperson Heidi Andersen said every school in the district has to update an annual emergency plan and all classrooms also have to post a “flip chart of instructions for responding to various emergencies.”
Officer Carlos Manfredi, a police spokesperson, said active-shooter training with schools “wouldn’t be a bad idea.” Police have to search and clear a campus when responding to a school shooting, even if witnesses saw the suspect run away.
“We all have to be on the same page when something like this happens,” Manfredi said, noting that seeing police with guns drawn can be an unfamiliar, scary and sobering experience for students.
Police arrested two suspects in connection with the shooting that erupted in the school’s parking lot and are still searching for two others.
Prosecutors charged one suspect with numerous counts of attempted murder Tuesday, but do not have enough evidence to charge a second suspect who was arrested, according to District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Alex Bastian. Both suspects are male juveniles.
District and police officials have acknowledged that there was initial confusion at June Jordan immediately after the shooting.
June Jordan Principal Matt Alexander said that the school has a “very strong” relationship with police and its school resource officers.
“Knowing that there was no active shooter on campus, our staff asked officers to lower their weapons,” Alexander said in a statement. “SFPD continued to follow their active shooter protocol to ensure the safety of the students.”
Both Manfredi and Fatooh said the lack of training could pose dangers for students, staff and officers, since police need to be unhindered when responding to reports of an active shooter.
“It’s important that the public and the parents understand that when the officers are responding to a school shooting, those officers have a job to do,” Manfredi said.
“If anybody gets in the way … then that officer has every right to arrest that teacher or that person or that student.”