About 100 people gathered at Santa Clarita Studios Wednesday night for the first meeting of Protect the Kids, which local parents and educators are hoping to turn into a movement that advocates for the protection of students against violence in schools following a deadly shooting at Saugus High School last week.
“Tonight is about trying to mobilize systems of change. Tonight is about starting the process of creating action,” said resident and mother Kym De Lorenzo, who is helping spearhead the group along with parent Neil Roemer.
Since the school shooting on Nov. 14 that killed three students, parents and educators, including survivors, have continuously expressed their intent to help improve children’s safety on campus.
Several recurring ideas were shared on the Protect the Kids Facebook page, which has more than 1,000 members, and were condensed into five topics that organizers shared Wednesday night:
- School safety protocol: This includes the conversation around backpacks, metal detectors, armed guards and an increased law enforcement presence.
- Media literacy: Teach children media literacy, which includes video games, social media and texting, and for parents to learn the influence it has on students.
- Cultivating deeper neighborhood engagement: Less time behind screens and more opportunities to bond with neighbors through organized events.
- Culture of education: Less test taking and more courses that allow kids to express themselves, such as peer counseling.
- Mental health: Create a mandatory class solely on social and emotional learning.
An immediate step the group said they would like to see is the expansion of programs already in place, such as the social and emotional learning course at La Mesa Junior High School that educator Jess Guidroz created. Guidroz shared its success Wednesday night.
Increasing awareness of these courses among parents and students was also discussed. Only 10 out of 3,000 students know about mental health resources on campus, according to a survey conducted by Active Minds at College of the Canyons, a student said.
The meeting also received support from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Lewis, who commended the group for gathering ideas and encouraged parents to listen to their kids and their needs.
Organizers said future meetings will continue to discuss further ideas, including how to fundraise for volunteers “until we can figure out how to re-allocate our tax dollars to hire more school counselors full-time and qualified professionals to consistently evaluate the mental health of our students,” according to a statement on the Protect the Kids Facebook page.