LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. -- In light of concerns about added school security, should sheriff's deputies have a presence on Rim of the World Unified School District campuses?
That's the question this newspaper asked of Rim school board members, after the Los Angeles Police Department on Monday stepped up patrols of Los Angeles Unified School District's 600 elementary and middle school campuses.
L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck said an officer would be visiting every school at least once a day, and in some locations officers would be seen as many as three times during the day.
"I don't want anyone to think they can walk into a school in Los Angeles and be immune from the police, 'cause you won't be," the police chief announced on CBS News on Monday.
Rim of the World school board members responded with mixed feelings.
“First and foremost, we need fencing and cameras as a deterrent,” said board president Tammy Decroo. “The cameras also give the administration the ability to inform authorities and staff as to the whereabouts the intruder might be on campus.
“So far, the sheriff's department response time for a campus emergency is very commendable,” she continued. “With that, I feel the need for patrolling, like LAUSD has implemented, is unnecessary at this time.”
She suggested more neighborhood watch programs around the schools, getting the community more involved, might be a good step to take.
“Hearing from Valley of Enchantment Elementary School's administration, they are forming a committee with emergency response teams and the community in case an emergency arises,” Decroo said.
Scott Markovich, who was board president last term, said the move by Los Angeles police and L.A. schools may be more reflective of that city's needs.
“It's a good idea, but is it realistic?” Markovich said. “Does the sheriff's department have manpower? It's good that people are talking about this (added security), but what about money?”
Markovich said if having deputies patrolling school campuses is a good idea, the county's board of supervisors should look at providing funds to pay for more deputies.
“I think it's more of a question for the board of supervisors,” he said. “Do they want to pursue that?”
Markovich said steps already are being taken to add more security at Rim's campuses.
“We are having more caution about locked doors, people checking in and wearing guest badges,” he said. “I do think it's a good idea to have deputies stop by once in a while, stop by and talk with the staff.”
Board member Leslie Bramson said school administrators are currently looking at the district's existing security plan, seeing how it can be improved.
“For our school district, I think it would be both good and bad to have deputies patrolling,” she said. “From one perspective, it would be very good to see deputies monitoring our campuses, and it probably would make students, teachers and parents feel more secure. But I don't know if it would really deter the person who is there to cause trouble.”
Board member David Erlanger said he thought the idea of deputies patrolling school campuses was a good idea, and also would provide added benefits.
“I think it would be great if deputies could do that for our elementary schools as a learning experience for the kids,” he said. “The students could see who they are, what they do, and that would be a great benefit. The mere presence (of deputies) would be an educational tool to helps kids understand the role of law enforcement.”
Board member Cindy Gardner expressed caution, emphasizing the need to look at the big picture.
“I think it’s a good idea to increase (Deputy) visability, especially with middle school visitation,” she said. “But my only concern is that we address the bigger issues, making sure we have our procedures down, checking in visitors, monitoring campus entrances, and practicing lock down drills, and that all teachers understand security policies.”
Increased patrols is only one part of better security, she added.
“A plan for patrolling, between the Sheriff and the district, is a conversation that needs to take place,” she added. “But it’s just a piece of the overall plan to deal with the possibility of school violence.”
Rim School Superintendent Donna Kellogg told this newspaper on Tuesday that she was meeting Wednesday morning with Sheriff's Captain Rick Ells to discuss campus security, and to get his input on ideas to make school campuses safer.
“I have invited him to attend our next administrative council meeting on Jan. 15 to discuss the issue,” she said. The council is made up of principals, administrators and herself.
“What we're doing is collecting all the information we can from state and county superintendents about other school safety plans,” she said. “We want to look at everything.”