SANTA CRUZ -- County education leaders Thursday waded into the hot-button topic of protecting students from violent threats on campus and touched on whether armed officers at schools would be acceptable.
The County Office of Education board has joined a countywide effort to write a resolution, mostly symbolic in its impact, in support of reducing gun violence at schools and improving mental health services for students.
County education trustees said they prefer to write their own resolution rather than adopt the same one done by Santa Cruz City Schools this week.
Trustee Sandra Nichols passed around a draft resolution she crafted with Trustee George "Bud" Winslow that largely mirrored City Schools' resolution, but told trustees she welcomed changes before putting the final resolution on the next meeting's agenda for a vote.
"This topic greatly concerns me," Nichols said. "All the resolutions can be the same to make a power statement, or we can have an individual resolution."
Trustee Aaron Hinde broached the sensitive topic of placing armed officers or guards on school campuses.
The week following the deadly shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in December, Hinde said he was comforted to see a sheriff's car parked in front of Brook Knoll, where his children attend school.
If the sheriff's deputy had not been there, Hinde said he would probably have kept his kids home from school that week.
Hinde said he's in favor of armed officers being stationed at K-12 schools countywide, but acknowledged the funding for such a move isn't available.
Hinde said armed officers are common on nearly every college campus, including Cabrillo College.
"I'm curious about where the opposition to this is coming from? I'm wondering if I'm missing some information on this topic," Hinde said. "If an armed shooter shows up on an elementary campus, a resolution will do nothing to stop it."
Trustee Jack Dilles sided with Hinde, saying armed officers do have a place on school campuses.
"I think there is a place for armed officers in our schools," Dilles said. "But that's not the sole answer."
Winslow said he's opposed to armed guards and officers at schools.
"More guns are counterproductive," he said. "More guns lead to more shootings."
The COE is also part of a countywide effort between school districts and law enforcement to develop a uniform response plan in the event of a school coming under attack.
The COE will host a meeting on Jan. 29 for schools officials and law enforcement to review issues such as command posts, staging areas and communication with parents during a campus lockdown.
"We'll be re-looking at lockdown procedures. What is it we're doing? Is it what we need to be doing?," said Jo Ann Allen, the COE's manager of student support services. "There's heightened awareness right now."
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