Dr Cesar Morales
The mass shooting that claimed the lives of 21 people at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas is the latest incidence of what has become a horribly common occurrence in our country. Here in Ventura County, students, parents and school employees are understandably scared. As the father of a daughter in our local public school system, I deeply understand these fears. As Superintendent of Schools for Ventura County, ensuring that all of our children are safe in school is my highest priority.
While I applaud the recent passage of new federal gun control legislation that will help keep guns away from people who may pose a threat, it could have gone much further. The law is notable for being the most significant gun control legislation to pass Congress in nearly 30 years. Unfortunately, it does not take more significant measures such as restricting the sale of assault weapons. The same week the law was signed into law, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will make it easier to carry a gun in public.
In the absence of more substantial federal action on gun safety, state and local leaders are pursuing new measures to help prevent tragedy in our schools. State lawmakers are considering legislation that would strengthen background checks and ban people from carrying concealed weapons in sensitive places like schools. Other legislation being considered would require schools to report threats of gun violence to law enforcement and provide parents with information about the safe storage of firearms. There is also a bill that would allow citizens to sue manufacturers and sellers of banned weapons.
At the local level, we are fortunate that schools, law enforcement and government agencies are all working collaboratively on solutions to a degree not seen in many other parts of the state. Through this cooperative approach, we have opened student wellness centers at many local high schools and more to come at high schools and colleges throughout Ventura County. These centers offer emotional support and mental health counseling to help students deal with stress, anxiety and conflict before things get out of hand.
Wellness centers are part of a larger effort to create a school culture that lets students know there are caring adults they can turn to for support. Schools also train staff members to recognize and respond to warning signs that a student might be contemplating an act of violence. For students who may pose a safety risk, the Ventura County Office of Education offers a variety of alternative education programs that provide more personalized and structured learning environments with extensive health support. mental.
All schools have comprehensive security plans, and many go further by securing their grounds and buildings. This can include limiting entry points, adding fencing, and making classroom doors easily lockable from the inside. And although active fire drills have become commonplace in schools, there is a growing realization that they need to be carried out with extreme sensitivity, so that they don’t end up traumatizing the students they are supposed to. protect.
It’s also important for students to be able to speak up when they hear about a potential threat – if you see something, say something. All school districts in Ventura County participate in a program called WeTip that allows anyone to anonymously report a threat to www.WeTip.com or by calling 800-782-7463. All reports are directed to the appropriate school officials who can notify local law enforcement if necessary. Tips that help lead to a conviction are eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
It’s been said many times before, but it bears repeating: no one should have to worry about the safety of their children when they go to school. All of us in education work to support students, identify threats and strengthen security to ensure schools are safe places to learn and grow.
Dr. Cesar Morales is the Superintendent of Schools for Ventura County.