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BOB McDONELL -- Community Commentary

March 08, 2001

While normally I don't respond to editorial comments or columns, there

appeared to be another perspective on this particular issue which

warranted consideration by your readers.

In an education-related column by Gay Geiser-Sandoval printed Feb. 27

("A deterrent more effective than the police"), Geiser-Sandoval proposes

to replace the school resource officers at our local high schools and

Ensign Intermediate School, with the lower cost "deans of rule

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enforcement."

While I applaud her call to "think outside the box and make sure we

get more bang for the buck," I think we're doing just that with our

school resource officer program. It is truly a partnership with our

school community, both financially and operationally.

Our school campuses are not unlike small communities unto themselves.

Along with that comes the potential for behaviors and events -- those of

students, on-campus guests and others -- that can be disruptive to the

educational environment or even dangerous to the campus community. While

it is true our schools are statistically safe, one need look no further

than the headlines of today's newspapers to understand the safety of

students and faculty -- even the surrounding neighborhoods -- are

concerns that should not be ignored.

As the superintendent of Newport-Mesa schools said in response to the

San Diego school shooting Monday: "We do everything we can at the front

end. There's no guarantee in this world." Our belief is that an effective

school resource officer program is just one more very important component

in our combined effort to maintain both an atmosphere and the reality of

safety on our school campuses.

It is important to understand, however, that the school resource

officer program has much more depth than just campus security issues.

Patterned after similar successful programs in use throughout the nation,

the officer serves as a positive role model for young people and is a law

enforcement contact for students, faculty and parents. We already know

from our recent experiences with this program that the informal

interactions with police officers on campus create new friendships,

mentoring relationships and provide another visible resource for students

and others seeking assistance with a wide variety of problems.

Officer Steve Martinez is our school resource officer at Newport

Harbor High School, the largest school in the district with a student

population equally divided between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach

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