One day after students across the nation walked out in protest of gun violence, the San Dieguito Union High School District Board (SDUHSD) of Trustees took steps March 15 to better ensure safety for students following the Parkland shooting and threats made to local schools.
The board voted four to one — with member Marureen “Mo” Muir opposing — to adopt a resolution in support of student safety and to prevent school violence.
District Superintendent Eric Dill emphasized the resolution was not in reaction to recent events but rather part of ongoing planning.
The resolution aimed to improve the physical safety of the district’s five high schools by installing new fences at certain campuses, ordering new lockblocks for each campus, requiring visitor identification and updating emergency plans.
Board member Joyce Dalessandro also encouraged the inclusion of “strong language” against automatic weapons. She read similar resolutions from San Diego Unified School District and the City of Encinitas.
“It doesn’t have the teeth,” Dalessandro said of the original SDUHSD document. “We have a really unique voice here where we can take a stand.”
The majority of the board agreed, adding the language to the resolution, and parents also cheered in support. Earlier in the meeting, parents encouraged the board to work with the nonprofit Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and to put pressure on Congress to enact a federal red flag law to block a person from having guns if they’ve shown to be a danger to themselves or others. They also said the age for someone purchasing a gun should be raised.
Muir said she could not support the addition of the language because it was new information that she had not fully read through yet.
She did, however, encourage a stronger police presence on all district campuses. She said she wanted to see one officer for every school and suggested the matter be placed on a future board agenda.
Sergeant Wes Elbers, of the San Diego Police Department, who attended the meeting with representatives from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and Carlsbad Police Department, said the SDPD as a whole is understaffed and has officers on rotation visiting the schools.
“It just seems like you’re spread kind of thin, and we want to make sure all our students are safe,” Muir said to the public safety representatives.
Parents also said the school should take a stand against sexual harassment, referring to an SDA teacher who resigned in February after he received 14 accusations of inappropriate behavior with students. Parents criticized the board for allowing the teacher to resign rather than firing him, thus “passing the trash” to another school.
“It appears the district is no better than the Catholic Church,” one parent said, encouraging a review of the district’s sexual harassment policies in April.
A Canyon Crest Academy student also said the district could do a better job helping students with mental health. The girl said she had a friend who attempted suicide earlier that week and that she’s known other peers who have also attempted suicide recently.
Mark Miller, the district’s associate superintendent of administrative services, said SDUHSD currently employs 31 counselors and plans to hold more student wellness workshops.
The district has $1.5 million set aside outside the general fund for perimeter fencing, said Tina Douglas, the associate superintendent of business services. She added that could start happening at Torrey Pines and San Dieguito Academy as soon as next month. The district also plans to check all doors and gates; look into an ID visitor management system, which would work by scanning a visitor’s driver’s license; update comprehensive school site plans; and look at signage on school site buildings.
Douglas said the district is also looking into vendors for cameras and expects a first set of cameras to be installed prior to the start of the next school year at Torrey Pines High School.
Staff emphasized that Torrey Pines and San Dieguito Academy should be taken care of first, in terms of the cameras and updated fencing, because they are older campuses.
Board member John Salazar suggested more immediate action needs to be taken. He said the district should hire security guards, install bulletproof glass and position panic buttons on the campuses.
“A bureaucratic answer isn’t what these people want,” Salazar said of the crowd of parents. “They want immediate action. ... This resolution is great, but it really isn’t going to do anything. We have the money. Let’s spend it now.”