Letter: City, School District’s Safety Actions Optimal

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Optimal doesn’t mean perfect, but best possible under existing circumstances. We applaud City Hall for taking the lead and School District for joining informed, decisive action to address suboptimal safety conditions at El Morro School.

All our schools deserve the same or equivalent city and school district services. That includes emergency communications, fire prevention, medical care and community policing. El Morro parents were right to demand a school site as safe as possible, not isolation on an unincorporated county-owned island of elevated risk.

Instead of hand-wringing or hiring more consultants, our Police Chief secured agreement by OC Sheriff that LBPD will be a front line first responder at El Morro School. The City Manager is giving closure of glaring gaps in emergency call response priority.

For now, the city and school district will share cost for rapid deployment of a second LBPD officer to augment community policing for LBUSD. The new School Resource Officer (SRO) will be based at El Morro but on call district wide like the SRO now based at LBHS.

Since 2004, we have been advocating a comprehensive safety audit and risk management paradigm. Relying instead on off-shelf generic models, our school district borrowed the SRO program developed for larger districts.

Since that’s the program LBUSD adopted, El Morro parents were justified seeking extension of the SRO model to El Morro. At least unless and until LBUSD and/or City Hall can offer equivalent or superior safety measures for all our schools.

I commend parent spokeswoman Amber Offield and SRO supporters for open dialogue with those not sure about community policing on campus. In addition to tertiary measures, sustainable permanent safety strategies may include annexation and incorporation of the El Morro school site.

Real community harmony on these issues happens when many diverse voices are blended. Very different from imposed “unity” demanding we speak with “one voice” as a politically contrived test of “loyalty.”

Instead of more bickering, go to City Hall website, see neighbors and City Hall working together at our Oct. 29 council meeting (www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/citygov/cityclerk/mam.htm), starting at 1:33:32 (my own remarks are at 2:18:28 – 2:22:25).

A century ago our community decided to educate its children locally. In some senses, El Morro was allowed to remain an out of town schoolhouse for too long. Whatever its future may be must be intentional, not accidental any longer.


Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

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