In a unanimous vote held during their Tuesday regular meeting, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors expanded resources available to schools as it pertains to student safety.
In the motion entitled “Approving School Climate and Safety” and introduced by Supervisor Holly Mitchell, the motion enhances the Board of Supervisors’ ability to oversee the services provided to school districts within Los Angeles County, and will also ask the Sheriff’s Department to provide the board with further data about the efficacy of the program.
In its current format, school boards and administrators are allowed to dictate and negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract with the Sheriff’s Department — which is then approved by the Board of Supervisors.
For example, the William S. Hart Union High School District has for years negotiated directly with LASD to draft and approve a contract that provides a handful of deputies covering two to three schools each. The contract, in past years, has hovered around approximately $1 million.
However, the new system will delegate the L.A. County sheriff to execute school agreements only “after obtaining approval from the inspector general.”
The motion also calls for an expansion of services to be made available to school districts in addition to deputies — such as mental health and behavioral specialists – who will focus on “restorative justice,” as opposed to “punitive practices,” such as citation and arrest.
“There is a need to comprehensively improve school climate and safety in many communities. and that requires providing additional supports, such as mental health services,” Mitchell said during the supervisors’ meeting. “So, to that end, this motion takes steps toward providing school districts with more options, not less.”
Schools will get support from the county and Department of Youth Development to provide school staff with training in harm prevention and restorative practices, according to Mitchell.
“Students can have the complexity of their needs appropriately addressed,” said Mitchell. “So again, the goal is to empower all school staff, neighbors, parents and others who have a role in ensuring student safety.”
The motion had been criticized by a handful of local officials at both Santa Clarita City Hall as well as in the William S. Hart Union High School District, who said that if the county wished to improve school climate and safety that the county should expand and enhance the School Resource Officer Program instead of adding another layer of bureaucracy.
“One size does not fit all,” said Councilwoman Marsha McLean, in a statement sent to The Signal on Tuesday. “Each school district is uniquely qualified to decide what parents want and need for the safety of their children. Why in the world would you bring another entity into the mix that has no knowledge of what each school district needs or wants?”
McLean then went on to say that she would also like to see the expansion of mental health services, using the Saugus High School shooting on Nov. 14, 2019, as an example of deputies responding quickly to the campus, but adding that the tragedy that caused the death of two students could have been avoided should there have been more mental resource options available to the shooter.
“School resource officers on campus full-time, along with enhanced mental health resources and programs, will give a sense of security, can deter school shootings and will save the lives of our children,” McLean said.