It is unfortunate that the school board voted down the amazing chance to increase the safety and well-being of our students simply because those few not in support of the SRO were loudest.
According to our police department, administration, and students, our high school and middle school are up against much more than just vaping, cyber bullying, anxiety, and substance abuse. It is a known fact that weapons are being brought on campus and threats to our students’ safety and well-being are being made. We don’t want to sensationalize these risks but if you look at many of the recent tragedies involving school shootings, they are happening in schools like ours where parents and students believe nothing like this could ever happen in their communities.
Between 2013-2018 the PPD received over 400 calls to assist in various events, including behavior problems and safety threats. That is two to three calls a week. We don’t understand why community members think that we are not at risk for these tragic events. This is today’s reality. Why would we not want to be proactive in prevention of these horrific instances?
Police Chief Jeremy Bowers and his department have put in countless hours to get us money granted by the Prop 56 Tobacco Grant. This money is only allowed to fund our SRO and will additionally provide required education to our kids on the harms of vaping. While having a full-time counselor to handle our children’s mental well-being would be wonderful and we are strongly in support of, unfortunately this money cannot be used for that per the Department of Justice.
Our students, as well as teenagers all over the country, are attempting suicide, battling anxiety, depression, drug addictions, and eating disorders. Our administrators and teachers are not fully equipped to manage these very real and serious challenges. They are trained to teach our students and run our school.
The SRO would come with a foundation of 40 hours of basic crisis training. Additionally they have a couple of hundred hours of training specifically dealing with understanding the adolescent mind and how to understand and support students with mental health challenges.
With a $500,000 grant in hand, is it truly the responsible decision of the school board to return the money to the California Department of Justice because we’d prefer another school psychologist that our district cannot afford and will never hire?
Our police chief, who is a father of a high school student himself, will ensure that the person who would fill this much-needed role would be the correct fit to support our PMS/PHS students. He has committed to hiring a mature person who is passionate about the success and safety of our children. He and the police department understand our teenagers can and will make mistakes. An additional role of the SRO will be to guide them to not make these mistakes. Their goals would be to proactively develop programs on campus to address these safety concerns and on campus substance abuse rather than just suspending them and sending students home, they will be able to offer continued education to address these challenges our students are up against.
What are we going to do to avoid and tackle these troubling mental health and substance abuse epidemics our students are facing? With money granted and in place to fund this position, why wouldn’t we make our students safety and mental well-being a top priority by adding this resource?
This extremely important decision should not be based on a survey that represents a small percentage of our student body and parent community, there is a large contingency of parents and students that have been unheard and believe it’s critical that we take action in supporting the hiring of the SRO like many high schools in the Bay Area and across the country with similar demographics and sincerely hope the school board, administration and police department can come to an agreement to come to a compromise and fulfill this grant, educate our students, and promote a safer community for all.