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Commentary: Make school safety a new year priority

December 27, 2012|By Geoff West

By the time you read this, Christmas will have come and gone and we'll be heading to the new year with anticipation of better days to come.

The children of our community have taken the obligatory holiday break and most are eagerly looking forward to Christmas and the joys and toys it will bring. I find myself wondering, though, what they are thinking today about the tragic, senseless event that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Certainly most of them know of Sandy Hook. It has been virtually impossible to avoid the news of that massacre because the media, as is always the case in such events, inserts itself into every nook and cranny of the lives of the shooter and the victims and their loved ones, day after day, week after week. They try to dissect the life of a gunman who took more than two dozen lives, looking for anything that might make sense of such a senseless act. And the smothering news is everywhere, sometimes seeming as thick as the Los Angeles smog of my youth.

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On Dec. 18, I was among the 50 or so members of the community who attended the emergency study session called by the trustees of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to discuss the Newtown tragedy, its impact on our school district and our preparedness for a similar event here. That meeting was conducted crisply and efficiently; and in broad terms, the staff was left with several assignments to study and asked to return with solutions for the board to consider at a future regular meeting.

Costa Mesa Police Chief Tom Gazsi and Newport Beach Deputy Chief Dave McGill made brief presentations and answered questions from the board members and staff. One of the predominant points emphasized was the importance of School Resource Officers on our campuses.

In fact, the officers who fill that role in Newport Beach schools were at the meeting and McGill acknowledged their presence. Unfortunately, Gazsi could not do the same because Costa Mesa presently has no SROs — the result of recent short-sighted budget decisions made by our elected leaders. After the two top cops left and the program expanded into other areas, the value of the SROs remained a constant thread through most of the subsequent discussions by board members, staff and members of the community.

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