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Panel Agrees on Proposals to Curb Campus Violence

April 01, 1993|HENRY CHU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Spurred by the recent deaths of two teen-agers shot at Reseda and Fairfax high schools, representatives of state and local lawmakers and other government agencies broadly agreed Wednesday on a raft of recommendations designed to curb violent crime in schools.

But members of the Emergency Task Force on Youth Violence acknowledged that some of the proposals--ranging from beefing up campus security to passing more restrictive gun laws--are largely symbolic because of a lack of funding and political support to implement such measures.

At its second and final meeting in the Fairfax High library--just a stone's throw from the classroom where a youth was shot to death in January--the group of 15 panelists agreed to press forward with more than 40 recommendations suggested by law enforcement experts and community organizations at the panel's first meeting last week.

Included were proposals to develop a weapons education program, discourage the amount of violence portrayed on television and in films, teach parents "nonviolent" disciplining techniques, tax gun sales to raise money for weapons education and increase the powers of school police officers.

"We're looking at it more broadly than just physical security measures on campus, because those kinds of measures are more reactive than pro-active," Los Angeles Board of Education member Mark Slavkin said.

Slavkin convened the task force last month following the death of student Michael Shean Ensley, who was shot during a midmorning snack break at Reseda High.

The purpose of the group is to foster greater cooperation among local government agencies to educate children about guns and violence. Task force members are to take the recommendations back to their agencies for consideration by the lawmakers they represent or the members' superiors.

Among those attending Wednesday's meeting were representatives from the Los Angeles city attorney's office, Los Angeles County district attorney's office, Los Angeles Police Department and staff members of several legislators, including state Senate leader David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys) and Congressman Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills).

Slavkin said he expected officials to agree to the proposals within a few weeks.

It would then be up to the task force and the public to hold the various agencies and lawmakers accountable for following through with the recommendations, said Slavkin, who is running for reelection to the school board this spring. He said he tapped $4,000 from his campaign coffers to hire a public relations firm to coordinate the task force meetings.

The committee discussed and refined the recommendations after several students from Fairfax High, Reseda High and Vine Street Elementary School in Hollywood told panelists that equipping all secondary schools with hand-held metal detectors was an inadequate solution to keeping weapons off campus.

"You have to have certain laws to scare the kids, to terrify the kids, and they'll leave their guns at home," said Ariel Cohen, a junior at Fairfax.

"If you don't educate kids when they're younger, when they're older it'll be too late," said Lee Ginsburg, a sixth-grader at Vine Street.

Ali Hematyar, a senior at Reseda High, said the campus was trying to launch a new program, called WARN (Weapons Are Removed Now), that would send high school students to surrounding junior high and elementary schools to caution younger students about the dangers of guns and other weapons.

"Children don't often listen to adults," he said. "They listen to us, their brothers and sisters."

Panelists were mindful, however, of the fact that many of the recommendations require money that already strapped governmental agencies can scarcely afford. For instance, a move to outfit all school police officers in uniforms was widely supported but would cost nearly $90,000, a figure that Los Angeles school officials said the cash-starved system does not have.

"If we're able to deter one shooting on campus, it'd be worth it," said Ray Boulden, vice president of the School Police Officers Assn. But the money to buy the uniforms is impossible to come by in a financial climate that has required school police officers to take a cumulative 12% slash in pay, he said.

School board member Jeff Horton acknowledged that the money is not there now to fund many of the proposals, but said that in itself is an important point to make.

"There's a point in reminding the people of this state that to solve some of these problems requires money," he said. "We have to keep saying that. If we stop . . . people will expect us to do it without the money."

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