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County Issue / School Security

In response to the rising tide of violence on school campuses, educators in Oxnard and Ventura have recently taken steps to bolster student safety, using measures such as metal detectors and strict dress codes. How can school districts provide security and ensure student safety without turning schools into prisons?

April 05, 1993

Debbie Sandland, Board member, Simi Valley Unified School District

It's a very difficult line and I'm very concerned about that. I would like to provide the maximum amount of security that we can and that would mean metal detectors and spot-checks. I am very concerned about the rights of students and personal freedoms, and I don't want to step on those rights, but I think safety is the ultimate objective. I would like to see metal detectors on school campuses and spot-checks done. I would like to spot-check lockers and students for weapons, and maybe that would keep that one kid from bringing a weapon to school. Unfortunately, we are faced with very unsafe conditions on campuses today. I don't think that because we live in Simi Valley we live in any kind of cocoon or don't have to worry about that. It just concerns me greatly. I think an ounce of prevention's worth a pound of cure, and I want to secure safety on our campuses first and foremost. I am concerned about students feeling uncomfortable, but I think that has to be secondary to the main point, which is safety. I don't want to wait until we have an incident happen before we take a hard, bottom line on this.

Ronald Stephens, Executive director, National School Safety Center, Thousand Oaks

School safety has to be placed at the top of the education agenda, and there must be a balance between the short-term quick fix and the long-term strategies that are set in place. Whenever a crisis occurs, it's very easy to take the immediate, what you might call politically expedient, reaction, which may include things like metal detectors, more law enforcement, higher fences, more surveillance, more security. It's important to take a more comprehensive and long-term approach that may include educational strategies. How do we change the attitudes of young people? It could include things like conflict mediation, citizenship training and simple courtesy. And if we can work with young people to develop some tools and strategies to peacefully resolve their conflicts, we will go a long way toward creating better and safer schools. Additional components that should also be looked at are ways to enhance supervision . . . so children don't feel like they're being 'snoopervised.' It's one thing to feel like you have an adult there who cares, it's another if you feel like you're under constant surveillance.

Joseph Spirito, Superintendent, Ventura Unified School District

What we need to do is to change the perception in the community that our schools are unsafe. We need to take some steps and measures to assure parents that when they send their children to our schools, they are indeed safe. But schools can't do it alone. The violence on campus is a reflection of the violence in society as a whole. We have to do more to bring back character to our schools, to teach the values of honesty, integrity and truthfulness and love for each other. I think that, unfortunately, we are going to have to look more at teaching some of the things that at one time were taught in homes and churches. I'm sure some homes and churches are still teaching them. But though the education program is, I think, the best method to reach students and solve these problems, otherwise what we're ending up with is a Band-Aid. If you put a fence around the campus, I don't think that that necessarily guarantees safety. If you put an armed guard on campus, that doesn't guarantee there won't be any problems. You have to work with the students.

Bill Studt, Superintendent, Oxnard Union High School District

Some three years ago, the Oxnard Union High School District took what I believe were some very proactive steps to stem the tide of violence and the flow of weapons on campus. We developed a very stringent policy on gang attire in terms of hats and any other clothing that would reflect gang involvement. We also, about a year and a half ago, redid our policy on expulsion of students who are found with weapons on campus. Under this policy now, whenever a principal finds a student with a weapon on campus, they have the responsibility to recommend expulsion to the board. Recently, I recommended to the board that we take an additional step for security, given what's going on in this county and what's going on in the Los Angeles area. I believed we needed to take another step to ensure the safety of students, and that was the metal detectors. The metal detector screening is not a cure for all weapons; it's a deterrent. It was a tough decision for me . . . but I made that decision based on what was going on and the potential for students being injured on one of our campuses.

Clint Harper, Board member, Moorpark Unified School District

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