As you may know, Chief Bowers recently received a tobacco mitigation grant by the Department of Justice. He initially sought to use the money from this grant to place a school resource officer (SRO) at our middle and high schools. Although there was significant community opposition to the placement of an SRO (and particularly the fact that the SRO would be armed), there was definite community agreement that we need to do better as a school system and as a community to support the mental health of our kids.
The recent California Healthy Kids Survey that showed Piedmont has a problem with overuse of drugs and alcohol particularly at the 11th and 12th grade levels. We need a well-articulated, sustainable TK-12 curriculum for prevention and support. Although there currently is some education around substance abuse at all levels, more work needs to be done and the DOJ grant could help fund these efforts.
Concerns about school safety and our children’s mental and physical health need to be addressed from the foundation up and our community must put aside hurt feelings and political disagreement to do what is best for our kids and our community. The money from this grant is still available. This is a city grant so the City Council will now be tasked with working together with Chief Bowers on how this money will be used.
Members of the School Board spoke with the DOJ about the grant and learned that there is no rush to accept this grant. Updates must be provided to the DOJ, but there is no firm deadline to accept, and the funds from this grant could be used more flexibly (partial funding for an officer and the rest for dedicated counselors or mental health professionals).
I propose that we put together a panel of community experts including adolescent medicine experts, guidance counselors, nurses, teachers, police officers and administrators for a respectful, public discussion. Devise a plan that will serve our children’s needs with education and prevention. Even if all of the funding is not available, it would give us a North Star to reach for and aid decision-making that supports our ultimate goal of healthier, happier kids.
Please become engaged in this discussion by reaching out to Chief Bowers, our School Board and our City Council members. The best way to serve our kids and our community is together.
Kerry Corcoran is a Piedmont resident