The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education approved a resolution Thursday, endorsing State Senator’s Sheila Kuehl’s Bill 660 that “would require (with certain exceptions) the principal of a school to take immediate steps to seek the consent of the parent or guardian of an elementary school pupil prior to making the pupil available to a peace officer for questioning.”
If approved by the State Legislature and Governor, the bill with “certain exceptions would prohibit making the pupil available for questioning if the parent or guardian requests that the pupil not be questioned until he or she can be present.”
Board member Oscar de la Torre suggested that signs be posted at schools to advise students what the “consequences would be for zero tolerance infractions,” such as bringing a weapon on campus, and what their rights are, such as not being interrogated by peace officers until a parent is present.
The Board also reviewed the new District policy authorizing the installation of video camera-based surveillance systems on district school campuses, which, according to the District staff report, would help deter “and monitor activities that lead to property loss or vandalism.” The policy states, “the system is not designed or intended to protect individuals from being victims of violent or property crime, or to detect other potentially illegal or undesirable activities which may occur, although any information obtained may be used as evidence in such cases.”
Installation of such a system at Santa Monica High School was prompted by vandalism costs of $20,126.18 incurred from July 2003 to April 2005. At this time, Samohi is the only District campus with the cameras.
The District staff report also stated “signs will be prominently displayed on campus, advising students, staff and visitors of the presence of video surveillance. Written operations and procedural guidelines covering the use of the system will be put in place prior to activation of the system to ensure effective and lawful operation.”
Approval of the policy will take place at the next Board meeting.
Earlier in the meeting, Board members heard a report by Dr. William McCarthy, Chair of the District Advisory Committee on Community Health and Safety, which contained six recommendations.
The first recommendation was to have “more security on campus by cultivating community, providing communications equipment and actively maintaining channels of communication.” The suggestion was justified, he said, by the “recent confrontations between students at Santa Monica High School that highlighted the need for investing in efforts to improve communication and cultivating a sense of shared community.”
He advised the Board to “ensure district compliance with state education codes for AIDS awareness and Health Education so the District doesn’t fall out of compliance with California and the U.S. Department of Education requirements” in a climate where there are “more limited federal and state resources.”
The committee also suggested “amending the District homework policy” that was last revised in 1989 as there are “marked inequities in homework in the same academic subject which suggest that amount of homework is somewhat arbitrary, and for conscientious students, excess homework can undermine academic performance.”
A fourth suggestion was that the District “maintain support for outside mental health service agencies in the face of declining federal and state resources” in this area.
Committee members also recommended that the District should “ensure that bathroom hygiene be at least tolerable as some of our most conscientious students feel traumatized by our bathrooms and some refuse to use them.”Finally, the committee suggested that the District ensure that those students who receive breakfast, receive it in a timely manner as “hunger impairs learning and adversely affects classroom behavior, and no school should force students to wait one or more classes each day before having breakfast.”