SANTA CRUZ -- The Santa Cruz City Schools board voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a resolution calling for greater national gun control and improved state funding for mental health.
"The more conversation and more awareness people have in the community and nation can make a difference for student safety, staff safety and teacher safety," said Vice President Cynthia Hawthorne, who was among a group of board members who drafted the symbolic resolution after a Dec. 14 school massacre in Connecticut.
"We all know students who need more support and intervention than they are getting now," she said of mental health services. "The state of California has pretty much shredded our safety net."
The resolution calls for reinstatement of a federal ban on sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as cutting access to such weapons for mentally ill people while providing more funding for mental wellness programs.
The vote came on the same day President Obama announced recommendations to tighten access to guns, including mandatory background checks and reviving a federal ban on assault weapons. Hawthorne, who is president of the Santa Cruz County School Boards Association, will ask representatives of the county Office of Education and nine other local districts to pass the resolution, which she and the teachers union president also plan to push with statewide education leaders.
By way of its resolution, the board rejected a proposal made by the National Rifle Association in the aftermath of the Connecticut killings to place a police officer or armed guard in every school. The district has a school resource officer from the Police Department that shuttles between middle and high schools, and campuses regularly practice lockdown drills and will update their active-shooter training.
But student services director Eileen Brown said the district also believes safety "is about knowing our students well" through counseling and intervention programs. Schools also have anti-discrimination and anti-bullying measures, and provide links to community groups working on social issues.
Police Chief Kevin Vogel reassured the board school safety is a top priority and urged the district to consider adding a second resource officer once he is able to fill vacancies on the force. The cost to the district would be $51,000.
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