Senseless shootings like the one at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita Thursday morning are occurring way to often as elected officials like Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District represents South Pasadena, continue to figure out how they can end.
“If I had an answer,” Barger told NBC News 4 Los Angeles, “it obviously would be done. I don’t think there is any easy answer. I think the rhetoric and talk is that people are fed up with it. People say, ‘At what point is it going to stop?’ Out of respect to the families, my focus is in supporting the community. I’m not going to point fingers or blame.”
Barger was approached following a news conference detailing how two students, a 14 and 16 year-old, were killed in a shooting at the school by a fellow student as shots were heard just after 7:30 a.m. when teens began arriving on campus.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department was at the scene two minutes after receiving a call about an active shooter at the school at 7:38 a.m. Once on campus, Villanueva said sheriff’s deputies counted a total of six victims, including the suspected shooter, whose 16th birthday is today, according to authorities. The suspect transported to a hospital reportedly was being treated from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
As an elected official, Barger said she is committed to do what she can “to push something,” she said. “I don’t know what that something is. I don’t think it’s an easy recipe. I don’t think it’s an easy fix. Someone said to me, ‘Do you think mental health was involved in this? Anyone who takes a gun to school on their 16th birthday and takes it out and shoots five classmates and saves a bullet for themselves has some sort of issue going on.”
Barger stressed that depression is the No. 1 suicide killer among youth. “We have to do something,” she said. “We need to provide these schools the resources they need to provide support services. That’s the one area that always gets cut. That is going to be my focus moving forwards.”
When Barger received word Thursday morning of an active shooter on the Saugus High School campus she prepared for the worst but hoped for the best.
“Unfortunately, the worst was playing out,” Barger told NBC News Los Angeles, noting that mental health professionals have descended upon the school to meet with students seeking support and “provide them with the comfort they need, especially with family members of the victims, along with those who are traumatized. We are very focused on getting the resources here to support the community, not only the students but the faculty and parent as well.”
Barger said she has “such a deep gratitude for the first responders,” talking about police and fire department officials, “who took the victims to the trauma centers then focused on making the school safe.”
NBC News Los Angeles reported that lockdowns, in effect earlier in the day, have now been lifted. In a statement, Mike Kuhlman, deputy superintendent for the William S. Hart Union High School District, said, “Our hearts go out to the families of those affected by this terrible incident. Words are insufficient in times such as these. We are currently in the process of formulating a plan to care for our school and our community – and will continue sharing updates as we learn more – including the plan for the days ahead.”
Reflecting on the tragic news, South Pasadena High principal Janet Anderson, sensitive to the situation, emailed a note to parents reading in part: “Sadly, from time to time, I have needed to share information with you about how to process tragic and violent situations. Having those conversations with young people can be particularly challenging. Today, we received this informational sheet with tips for how teachers and parents can help the youngsters in our charges understand the issues and their feelings. I hope this can assist you in dealing with the unbearable news of another school shooting, this one in our own backyard. Our teachers have received the same informational page. Please also remind your children that they can see a counselor, administrator, or any person they designate as someone with whom they can connect here at school.
Anderson encouraged the local high school community to attend a state volleyball game on campus Thursday night for some family time and to take a break from the news of the Saugus shootings.
“Thank you for working with us to surround your children with love and safety. Just so you are aware, due to the way today’s news was breaking, there were no school-wide news alerts at SPHS today,” Anderson concluded in her letter.