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Have ideas for making LAUSD schools safer? This blue ribbon panel wants to know

A heavy police presence is seen outside Belmont High School/Castro Middle School following a shooting Thursday morning. Kyle Stokes/KPCC

In the wake of school shootings as far away as a Florida high school and as close to home as a Los Angeles middle school, a group of civic leaders, educators and law enforcement representatives will gather this spring to ponder this question: are students in L.A. schools as safe as they can be?

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer announced the convening of this blue ribbon panel on Monday, saying that while he had no reason to believe students in the Los Angeles Unified School District are not reasonably safe, "we can always do better."

"This is a time for all of us to be taking stock," Feuer said, "of how we can assure all our students are as safe as possible."

The panel's membership is still being finalized, but three former top officials have already signed on: former city controller Laura Chick, former state Supreme Court justice Carlos Moreno and former LAPD assistant chief Earl Paysinger.

Another nine panelists are also on board, including two officers from L.A.'s main teachers union, two LAUSD students, an L.A. School Police representative and other community representatives.

Once the panel is fully assembled, Feuer said it will consist of between 15 and 20 members, including possibly an L.A. Unified administrator. During the spring, the panel will hold several public hearings — Feuer described them as "town hall meetings" — in locations across the city.

"One of the keys of this panel's work is to be good listeners," Feuer said.

The city attorney's office promised the blue ribbon panel would return this summer with a report offering "recommendations on additional steps to keep kids safe in L.A. schools."

Feuer didn't tip his hand on what answers he hoped the panel would return — "I don't want to pre-judge the ideas that might emerge in the discussions," he said — but he did offer some examples of questions that the panel was likely to consider.

Among those questions: Should campus security be tightened? Should state or local gun laws be toughened? Should more on-campus mental health resources be offered? How safe are students' routes to and from campus? Are students, teachers or parents able to report suspicious activity?

The panel could also weigh in on L.A. Unified's policy of randomly searching middle- and high school students for drugs or weapons. In recent years, activists, civil libertarians and student groups have challenged this "wanding" policy as invasive and ineffective; district officials and the L.A. School Police see it as a key deterrent to bringing weapons to campus.

Feuer's announcement came one day before the L.A. Unified School Board was set to vote on a resolution calling on federal lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws.

When asked about Feuer's panel, the school district's interim superintendent, Vivian Ekchian, sent a written statement encouraging collaboration between L.A. Unified, local governments, "civic organizations and other stakeholders."

"The safety of L.A. Unified and the city of Los Angeles go hand in hand," Ekchian said.

This post was updated to include Ekchian's statement at 5:45 p.m.