Re "Police Kill Armed Teenager at High School," Jan. 11.
Hueneme High School in Oxnard, where I teach, played unwilling host to an unspeakable tragedy. Much has been said about the events, but this is a testimonial of what went right.
The first concern for all responsible people during this incident was protecting lives. Teachers herded frightened students into the nearest classroom. Staff cleared the quad of all students in what seemed like hours but was probably less than a minute.
The community owes a debt of gratitude to the selflessness of the police who answered the call and put their lives on the line. The police conducted themselves in a professional manner and saved lives in what could have been a replay of Columbine.
A special commendation needs to go to the students of Hueneme High. While keeping watch over a large group of frightened students in my own classroom, I noticed several working hard to keep the atmosphere calm. Other teachers reported seeing students guiding others to safety, including accompanying scores of strangers to their own homes. There was no discernible panic, only quiet urgency.
That there was not greater loss was due to the actions of hundreds of heroes--students, staff and police. The Oxnard-Port Hueneme community should be proud of every one of them.
Re "A Tighter Safety Net," Ventura County editorial, Jan. 14.
The California Strategic Plan for Adolescent Health, released just three days before the tragic events at Hueneme High, calls for mental health resources for youth among its recommendations. For too long, California's institutions have neglected the emotional and mental health of this generation.
Unless we pay heed, and unless our policymakers pay heed, we will continue to have acts of violence intrude on our campuses and our neighborhoods.
An increase of 34% in the teenage population will be realized in California by 2005 but this doesn't need to be a forecast of doom. Prevention does work and could have preempted this act of violence.
Children who are exposed to violence at any time in their life are as abused as if they had been the victims themselves. They need mental health supports, and our community needs to provide this. A child thus identified early in the cycle of violence can be saved and not left to fend for himself.
I want to challenge our community and our law enforcement, social service agencies, health agencies and especially our elected officials to support the recommendations of the adolescent health plan, involve youth in the discussions and move this issue forward.
Let us all join in the Teach Peace effort now launched in Ventura County and make the vision of a safe and peaceful community come to be.
How much did it cost to send the SWAT team and other police personnel to Hueneme High? How many sessions of psychotherapy could have been bought for that child with that money?