Friday, August 28, 2015 • 08:07

Board member walks out on school security discussion

VCPUSD Board Member Michael Robledo stirred up drama on April 10 when he attacked fellow board members for their "appalling" attitudes on school security.
April 16, 2014
"I think that I need to leave because I don't have any nice things to say and I'm pretty pissed off right now," said Michael Robledo, member of the Valley Center Pauma Unified School District board, before storming out of last Thursday's board meeting during a discussion on school security.

Convinced that his fellow board members didn't share his dedication for preventing a future shooting or stabbing, Robledo walked out on the same discussion that he started.

The issue first came up with Robledo presenting the need to improve security measures in the district. He pointed to the nationwide increase in violent school incidents in recent years, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012 and the more recent mass stabbing at Murrysville, PA on April 9 of this year, as well as a slew of other incidents.

Robledo then identified several security concerns at Valley Center schools, including campuses anyone can easily walk onto and school guards lacking adequate defensive weapons.

"What I was surprised to find out was that our security personnel have no way to protect the students other than shielding the students with their body. They have nothing," said Robledo. "I think we need to take further steps. I think we really need to look at, not just looking at our procedure, but what it is that we can do to increase the safety and security of our schools."

Robledo urged the board to direct district staff to begin seeking proposals from third-party consultants on making all of the campuses safer. Although there was a general consensus that the security policies be revisited, several board members wanted more information first.

Vice President Lori Johnson requested that staff report back with the current standard operating procedures before moving forward and Member Mary Polito wanted to consult local law enforcement. Polito also questioned whether any measure, even the most extreme, could guarantee the safety of students.

"Sandy Hook is the perfect example," said Polito. "They had closed-video monitoring, you entered at an entrance room — I mean that is about as secure as something gets. Somebody with a gun who has the will to do something can. So are we going to have armed people everywhere? Or else we shouldn't even go driving on the freeways because there's a heck of a lot more deaths out there."

Karen Burstein, clerk, responded: "We're not talking about that. We're talking about taking the first step. That would be just verifying with an expert, what do we need, where are our holes, and where do we want to make sure we shore them up?"

"I think we're all in agreement we need to re-look at this issue, and that we need to do something to make sure that we're doing all we possibly can," said Don Martin, president. "Like one of [Mary Polito's] points, you can do everything, but there will be some knucklehead that will figure out a way to circumvent whatever you put in place."

Calm as the discussion had been up until that point, tempers quickly rose when Robledo accused his fellow board members of being complacent and slow to act.

"To respond to Mary [Polito], and what Don [Martin] was echoing, I actually find what you said appalling," said Robledo. "This is appalling what you guys have said, because it's pretty close to saying that, you know what, whatever we do, that we can't stop it. That's crap, that we can't stop it or not. Let's do something about it."

"You're putting thoughts out there that are not in my head," replied Martin. "We need to bring in the people that do it right. Don't think that we take it lightly. We don't."

Robledo continued to criticize Polito and Martin's comments, before walking out of the meeting because he was too angry to continue.

After his abrupt departure, the rest of the board agreed to have district staff present on current security procedures at an upcoming meeting and seek proposals from third-party consultants.

"If we could get a consultant on board and get something going before the end of the school year and we can vote on it in June, they can be working on whatever they come up with over the summer," said Martin. "Again, we want to do it right the first time."

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