Santa Cruz High School.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
K-12 Education

What to know: Santa Cruz County high school safety plans

Lookout Santa Cruz is providing a summary of safety measures and protocols by high school. This list will be updated as more officials provide details and context to their plans.

In the aftermath of the Aptos High School tragedy, student safety is on the minds of parents, educators and students.

Public safety officials have noted the importance of school resource officers, roles which are in some — but not all — Santa Cruz County public schools.

To cut through the confusion of the differing safety measures and protocols, Lookout Santa Cruz is providing a summary of these plans by high school. This list will be updated as more officials provide details and context to their plans.

In accordance with California law, each public school has to file an annual school safety plan. The plan needs to be reviewed and approved each year. In addition, various community organizations and leaders are involved in the process, including local law enforcement and mayors.

In addition, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education has a model emergency management plan, which outlines appropriate protocol and communication channels in case of emergency. This includes the necessary protocol for handling a response for an incident involving a weapon.

A screenshot on incident notification from Santa Cruz County Office of Education's model emergency management plan.
A screenshot on incident notification from Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s model emergency management plan.
(Santa Cruz County Office of Education)

Individual school safety plans work in tandem with that emergency management plan and highlight specific details regarding crisis management for staff. These plans also include training sessions and outlines for best and current practices for student diversity, acceptance and mental health and well-being.

County superintendents released a letter to the families Wednesday.

“Today we are heartbroken. We grieve with the Aptos High School community following yesterday’s tragic loss of a 17-year-old student,” the letter read. “This tragedy has shaken and deeply saddened all of us, and our community’s path to healing is only beginning. To all of those impacted, know that we will stand with you every step of the way.”

Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriquez said that the safety plans provide an overview of drills, support systems, safety personnel and communication channels but some information is absent from the plans to help improve safety protocols.

“For safety reasons, there are other pieces of information we can not provide,” she said.

This includes gathering areas and meeting areas during emergencies. The information is withheld to ensure potential attackers are unaware.

“There’s been a misinterpretation of code red training and we’ve been active on ALICE training,” she said.

Rodriquez said all teachers received refresher courses on ALICE training, — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — which is active shooter training. While code red lockdown drills have been scheduled, they just have not been conducted yet.

A shelter-in-place was ordered at Aptos High Tuesday to help law enforcement officials apprehend the suspects and remained active for two days to help law enforcement investigate the crime scene, she said.

“A lockdown is used if someone is trying to come in. A shelter-in-place is used when you don’t want the area to be disturbed,” she said.

The SROs were removed in July 2020 at Aptos High School following a 5-2 vote by the school board. The officers were replaced with mental health technicians.

Soquel High School

Read the full safety plan here.

Soquel High School has had 17 incidents that required law enforcement since 2015, according to the 2020-21 safety plan. It is outlined in the plan that the school has a student resource officer and sheriff deputy, who typically will be on the school campus during the week. In addition, two campus supervisors will monitor the campus, parking lots and surrounding areas.

Administration, the SRO, head custodian, both campus supervisors and two classified staff members are to meet weekly to address current school safety needs. The plan also outlines the inclusion of monthly meetings.

Santa Cruz High School

Read the full safety plan here.

Santa Cruz High School has had one incident that required law enforcement since 2015, according to the 2020-21 safety plan. The school conducts fire drills, lockdown procedures, code red procedures, and earthquake procedures twice a year. A shelter-in-place drill is conducted once a year.

In addition, Santa Cruz City Schools has partnered with Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance to help improve support for students with substance or mental health issues.

San Lorenzo Valley High School

Read the full safety plan here.

The school conducts fire drills twice a year and annual drills for lockdown, code red, shelter-in-place and earthquake emergency procedures.

Harbor High School


Read the full safety plan here.

Harbor High School has had three incidents that required law enforcement since 2015, according to its 2020-2021 safety plan. The school has two campus supervisors that patrol the campus, parking lots and surrounding areas along with security cameras and a School Resource Officer. The SRO is on-site two to three times a week or at the request of site/district administrators.

The school follows the county’s Threat Assessment Protocol which includes use of a Threat Assessment Team. The team includes site counselors, school psychologists, site administration, a district social worker and the SRO. The school also conducts annual fire drills, lockdown, code red, shelter-in-place and earthquake emergency procedures.

Scotts Valley High School


Read the full safety plan here.

The school has had two incidents that required law enforcement since last year, according to the district’s school safety plan. The high school employs two school counselors along with a part-time social-emotional counselor for students.

Fire drills are completed four times a year, lockdown procedures are completed twice a year, and shelter-in-place and code red procedures are completed once a year. Earthquake emergency drills are scheduled once per semester. In addition, Scotts Valley Police Department helps patrol traffic before and after school hours.

Watsonville High School


According to the 2021-22 school safety plan, 9.6% of Watsonville students in the past school year received some type of intervention or discipline for student behavior.

Fire drills are conducted twice a year, while shelter-in-place, earthquake and ALICE drills are conducted annually. The school also has a wellness team and Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance Services Programs in place along with additional counseling and referral services for students who may be managing substance abuse.

The school also replaced most of its door locks with the “Columbine lock,” which can be locked from the inside for student and staff safety, according to the 2016-2017 school safety plan.

Aptos High School

Aptos High School had three citations issued by law enforcement on campus last year, according to its 2021-2022 school safety report.

The high school has one ALICE training scheduled and will have other drills including fire and earthquake drills scheduled once students return to in-school learning.

The high school does not have a School Resource Officer (SRO). A Wellness Center is included on campus along with a Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) team.The PBIS team consists of two students, faculty, school counselors, classified staff and administration.

Pajaro Valley High School


The high school has a School Resource Officer. In addition, the high school also employs a social-emotional counselor, four academic counselors, and a Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) team.