Reaction in Central California following Texas school shooting

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- "Our children are innocent and really, they play no role in whatever political games are happening across the country."

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderama emphasizes the role his department plays on Fresno Unified school campuses.

Fifteen officers and one sergeant are stationed at the district's high school campuses, which Balderrama says he doubled down on when he first became chief despite police reform recommendations.

"If something like this does happen, how can you lock down the school immediately and have that layer of protection," he said. "Between an armed assailant who is coming in to hurt the staff and the children and the police officer. That is who we are."

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The department is ultimately hoping to get ahead of the violence.

Balderrama says any threat, including those that circulate on social media, will be investigated and could lead to terroristic threat charges.

"This is not a game," he said. "This is a very serious situation we saw today (Tuesday) where many people lost their lives."

Tuesday, just hours after kids were killed by a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, Fresno police officers responded to Lowell Elementary in central Fresno where a child brought a BB gun to school and shot another student.

At the Fresno County Office of Education, preparations are underway for more safety training.

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In March, educators underwent behavioral threat assessment training. Local police departments, the sheriff's office and the FBI took part in teaching educators to identify risk signs in students to get them the right resources before violence occurs.

"We are able to train all school staff in conjunction with school psychologists on how to identify some of those behaviors that could end up being threatening behaviors," says Fresno County Deputy Superintendent Dr. Hank Gutierrez.

In a letter to parents Tuesday, Visalia Unified pointed out the new security fencing installed with a single point of entry during the instructional day at every school campus.

Clovis Unified released a statement, saying: "Today, we watched in horror and grief the events that unfolded in Uvalde, Texas. Our hearts are breaking for those lost, and for the families and educators whose lives have been forever changed by the actions of one person. Our best prevention of such tragedies lies with our parent community and the team of teachers, principals, and other staff on our campuses every day, and the hundreds of eyes and ears that they lend to securing our schools. In addition to extensive character development, social-emotional support systems, and safety plans we regularly practice drills (including lock down, fire, facility alert and evacuation drills) in order that our staff and students are well familiar with our procedures to immediately act to protect students and staff. A trained team of sworn police officers are also in place in Clovis Unified. Our district police force provides another line of defense to protect our schools, in addition to our valuable law enforcement partners in our local police and sheriff's offices."
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