LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles Unified School District board members on Tuesday called on legislators to enact more stringent gun laws, a day after the city attorney announced the formation of a blue-ribbon panel to explore safety in local schools.
In the wake of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, school administrators across the country are asking if their schools are safe enough.
LA Unified, the second largest school district in the country, voted on a list of demands made of the federal government that include increased funding for student mental health services and research on gun violence, but their biggest requests include gun reform, banning assault weapons, universal background checks and licensing and training for gun owners.
Earlier this week, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer announced the formation of a panel of community members, law enforcement, teacher union members and students.
The panel will hold a series of public hearings to talk about safety in schools, including improved reporting measures for suspicious people, heightened campus security, increased mental health resources for students and safe storage of firearms.
The last topic point is salient after two students at an LA middle school were shot last month when a handgun in a 12-year-old girl’s backpack accidently fired. Both victims of the shooting survived, but the aftermath of the shooting created another facet on the topic of gun safety.
Los Angeles School Police Association vice president Rodolfo Perez said there are 380 campus officers for the approximately 735,000 students in the LA Unified School District.
Of that group, about 70 percent are trained to engage with someone undergoing a mental health crisis. They’re able to communicate with students on a daily basis and are trained to engage active shooters.
“In effect, they become literally the elite of officers,” said Perez, who was not present at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Trained officers are in high demand and underfunded in the school district, said Perez. Schools are safe, but also vulnerable and officers are stretched thin, responding to threats through social media, tips from parents, teachers, and others in the community.
What’s more, Perez said there needs to be a budget for school safety and in his view that does not include arming teachers.