The LAPD will have officers stop daily at Los Angeles Unified's 600 elementary and middle schools - and any charter or private school that requests a visit - as part of the beefed-up student security measures sparked by the Connecticut school shooting, officials said Monday.
The deployment of uniformed and plainclothes officers - which Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck called a "significant, significant task" - will complement the armed school district police already stationed daily at every LAUSD high school.
"A barrier has been broken in our culture, and that barrier is the safety of our youngest residents," Beck said at a Monday press conference. "It's all of our jobs, to make sure that we resurrect that barrier and that our children are safe."
With the flags flying at half-staff in memory of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, city and district officials came together to discuss steps they are taking to avert a tragedy like the one that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
Although winter break for students began Monday, administrators at Los Angeles Unified started reviewing the safety plans and procedures for all 1,000 campuses, including the public's access to the schools. An initial check found that fewer than 10 campuses lack a perimeter fence, he said.
Los Angeles Unified and the LAPD also sent a contingent of officers to Connecticut to offer help and see what lessons they could learn from the tragedy.
In addition, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the city will hold its annual gun buyback program on Dec. 26, five months earlier than usual. Anyone who turns in a firearm will receive a Ralphs gift card of $100 for a handgun and $200 for an automatic weapon - no questions asked.
"It's time to say no to senseless violence in our neighborhoods," said Villaraigosa, noting that some 800 guns have been surrendered during previous buyback campaigns.
Beck also said that "alert patrol officers" had arrested Kyle Bangayan, 24, on suspicion of posting violent threats against local schools on Facebook. Bangayan, an engineering student at Cal Poly Pomona, was being held on $500,000 bail.
Bangayan was arrested on Sunday at his parents' home in Hollywood, where authorities recovered nine firearms, including rifles, handguns and a shotgun.
Late Monday, prosecutors announced they would not file charges against Bangayan. While he had referenced the massacre in Connecticut, he apparently made no specific threat against a school or person.
Much of the press conference was spent reassuring parents about the efforts being made to protect their children from harm.
Beginning Jan. 7, when LAUSD's winter break ends, officers from the LAPD - along with Los Angeles County and the other municipalities served by the nation's second-largest school district - will be on every campus every day.
"Over the past few days, I've received numerous phone calls and emails from parents inquiring about student safety," said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy. "I have reassured them we are dedicated to the security of their children. We are mindful of the lessons we've learned from this tragedy."
Beck said the beefed-up police presence will continue as long as deemed necessary, and that the LAPD has ample resources to handle the additional patrols. Charter schools, which enroll about 120,000 students, and private schools can request visits from law enforcement.
"This is a message to anybody who sees this coverage," Beck said. "If you try to stake your claim to infamy, the LAPD and the school police will deal with you in a way that is appropriate."
Los Angeles Unified officials are studying the feasibility and cost of expanding the district's police force so that armed officers could patrol the K-8 campuses as they now do the district's high schools.
The district has 300 psychiatric social workers on staff to not only help students shaken by the Newton, Conn., tragedy but to help identify and support those with emotional issues that could potentially create a threat.
"The role of any school staff - in addition to education - is the safety of students, including social and emotional issues," said Ailleth Tom, the district's coordinator for crisis counseling and intervention services.
Neighboring school districts and charter schools are also reviewing their safety procedures and beefing up security measures.
Yvonne Chan, founder of the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, a cluster of charter campuses in Pacoima, said her staff spent Monday conducting lockdown and emergency drills. Told of Beck's offer of a police presence, Chan said she can't wait to sign up.
Ivy Academia charter has set up on-site counseling and scheduled LAPD to provide "incident response" training for administrators and staff.
The Burbank Police Department has beefed up its patrols of every campus, while principals ensure that security procedures are in place and that they're available to students.
Beck and Deasy each underscored the importance of reporting suspicions about unusual or suspicious behavior.
"If you see something, say something," Beck said. "We'll do the heavy lifting. All of us have to watch out for each other."