Tuesday, July 29, 2014 • 01:50

Safety of our children, an emotional topic

May 21, 2014
With the recent increase of violence in our schools, I decided to do a bit of research and was astonished by what I discovered. This prompted my request to present my findings at the April general school board session in hopes of having my fellow school board members increase the safety and security at our schools. This topic is not a new concern. I brought it up a year and a half ago when 20 six and seven year-old children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. We can't wait any longer; we need to address the safety and security at our schools immediately.

When I was creating my presentation and compiling the statistics, I became very concerned. I found that the growing trend of violence in our schools is increasing exponentially, over 400 percent in just the last four years! I also found that in the last several years in our own back yard, there have been several scares that have shut down Escondido schools and required law enforcement to intervene. Closer to home, several parents tell me that incidents have occurred in our own Valley Center Pauma School District. Luckily none of these events resulted in any student casualties or injuries. This raises the obvious question in my mind, are my kids safe when they go to school? Are your kids safe? Statistically, the answer is no.

Children's safety elicits a natural human response of emotions, just as it did for me when I got teary eyed at the end of my presentation after showing a picture of my two boys, seven and nine who go to Lilac Elementary. The thought of anything ever happening to them would be unimaginable and crushing, which is why I was shocked when the killing of innocent children was being compared to the risk we take when driving on the freeway and that anything we do is essentially pointless.

First, how is that comparable and second, do you not take every measureable step you can to protect yourself when you drive, such as wearing a seat belt, putting children in car seats, buying a vehicle with airbags, stopping at red lights, etc.? The answer of course is yes; what we do to protect ourselves does help prevent deaths. Ironically and tragically four days before the school board meeting a mass stabbing occurred in Murrysville, PA and one day before the meeting two people were shot outside an Ohio Elementary School. Being that I am the only board member with children in the school district this is not just a theoretical concern for me, it is a reality I am faced with everyday. Unfortunately I let my emotions get the best of me when I walked out and do apologize to those I may have offended. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I believe we all want our children to be safe when they go to school and so to achieve this, I propose the following three steps. First, obtain quotes to hire a school safety consultant to evaluate the safety of our schools and implement safety protocols. Second, add a new line item specifically for safety to our next school budget, track amounts spent, for what purpose, and measure results of improvements. Third, during the next contract negotiation with the Valley Center Pauma Unions we negotiate a line item to hire dually sworn resource officers at each school. As some of you may already know, many schools across the nation do this already with great success. According to research performed by Dr. Eric Dietz, a 22-year former Army veteran, Indiana and Professor at Purdue University, "hiring a resource officer would reduce police response times by 59.5 percent and casualties by 66.5 percent." Taking these steps is just a start, but there's always more we can do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting putting our schools in a bubble, I'm simply requesting something be done. Evaluating where we are at, what we can do to improve, and continuously working toward higher standards is essential. We need to take this as seriously as we as Californians take earthquake and wild fire preparedness and do what we can to protect our children. I'm strapping on my tennis shoes and ready to get to work and I encourage everyone to join me.

Michael T. Robledo

Valley Center Pauma Unified School District School Board Trustee

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