More than ever, the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida have given parents across the nation much pause and concern for school safety.
A nationwide student walkout is planned for March 14 although large demonstrations across the country and at L.A. City Hall have already been held to call for stricter gun control laws and the ban on sales of assault weapons.
The debate on guns and how to make school’s safer evokes strong opinion that has further deepened the country’s political divide.
Among the heated debates have been the controversy to arm teachers and administrators with guns that proponents believe would discourage intruders who intend to do harm from entering school campuses.
Others recommend less extreme measures that would increase school police on campus and provide a mandate to require all students and school visitors to pass through metal detectors.
LAUSD school board member Kelly Gonez, who represents the Northeast San Fernando Valley, told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that not all schools have recently participated in “active school shooting training,” which would provide the steps that should be taken in the event of a life-threatening incident like the one that occurred in Parkland.
“Not all schools have actively engaged in that training recently and it’s important that our principals, teachers and students know what do to in an action like that,” said Gonez, who is against teachers having weapons.
This week, LAUSD introduced a proposed school safety resolution to call on both the state and federal government to tighten gun control laws.
Board member Nick Melvoin, who wrote the proposal along with Gonez and other members of the board, calls on lawmakers to pass gun reform legislation, including a ban of assault rifles. Melvoin said he is also strongly opposed to arming teachers with guns.
“Teachers have enough on their plates, especially when 80 percent of our students are living in poverty,” Melvoin said.
Meanwhile across the nation, gun proponents have been quick to point out that by constitutional law, citizens still have a right to bear arms and believe teachers with proper training should be permitted to have a gun in the classroom.
Others believe that having more guns would open the door to cause more danger with accidents and injuries to students, which would make students feel less safe and would create a poor learning environment.
“It’s very important that schools create a culture of trust so that if they [students] hear something, they have a trusted adult they can turn to,” said Gonez, who echoes the need for increased mental health services.
“The district provides mental health services but in our community we know there is a lack of services,” she said. “Sometimes the schools are the only provider for mental health services for students and I see that as really vital.”
The LAUSD’s proposed resolution would also require the district to fully review safety policies, including making sure entrances are secure and drills to prepare for a possible shooter on campus.
It would also seek more funds for mental health services to find and help at-risk students.
Gonez views the LAUSD proposal as an expression of “solidarity with the students in Parkland,” and said she has been impressed with the students who are fighting for change at the state and federal level.
Gonez said she will be at a school in her district on March 14 and is encouraging students to express their opinion by participating in the school activities that are planned on campus rather than “walking out” of school.
“There are many ways to express your activism,” she said. “I think we are all on the same page on the urgency of this issue.”
The LAUSD board is set to vote on the proposed resolution next Tuesday.