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We have a safety problem, Fresno.
We know we have a safety problem when it hits the campuses of our schools, where your children spend most of their days.
We learned last week that violence against instructors is not an isolated incident. It shouldn’t happen in south Fresno, it shouldn’t happen west of 41, north of Shaw or east of Blackstone.
The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there is one. And while I am more willing to admit we have a problem with campus safety, there is a sad number who are asleep at the switch.
The questions I asked myself over the weekend was: “Just a few weeks after the attack at UC Merced and threat at Fresno State, why have we been caught so far off-guard? How did these attacks spread?”
The answer, of course, wasn’t complicated: we let it happen. Fresno Unified dropped the ball. And in dropping the ball, it’s important to note that all lives matter.
In the aftermath of the assault at Bullard, we can jump down a deep rabbit hole of “What ifs.” What if that adult came on campus with a gun? What if they didn’t have to go through a teacher and got to the student alone? And what if the teacher was the target?
With Bullard being a 360-degree campus, a five-year-old could hop the fence and be undetected.
In the process of Monday-morning quarterbacking, it’s important to figure out what we can do better to ensure that our kids get the best education in a safe place.
Let’s start with the obvious: we need to set straight our relationship with Fresno police. The fact that a police officer did not arrive to the campus until an hour and a half after the assault at Bullard is beyond inexcusable.
Our men in blue do a tremendous job protecting this city and we need to ensure that there is a campus security officer from the department on our campuses at all times.
More troubling than the lack of police presence on Friday morning is the way in which school administrators were confused on which protocol to take. Instead of engaging in a full inquiry and giving police the opportunity to investigate, they allowed the assailants to leave campus. This is a clear demonstration of a lack of an emergency plan or protocol.
For many outside of Fresno Unified, this would seem ludicrous. It is.
But there is a reason why: we have failed to properly train our administrators on procedures of discipline and emergencies. Where, administrators would typically take aggressive action to stop acts of violence on campus and ensure that there is a proper deterrent for future violence, Bullard was left with a ham-handed response to a major emergency.
You can see the end result on YouTube: filmed school fights, along with open disrespect to administrators and faculty that escalates to physical violence.
The same week of Bullard’s Friday morning assault, there was a fight in the girl’s locker room.
The lesson that ought to have been learned from the Roosevelt incident is that there is little restoring a disruptive atmosphere in the classroom caused by unruly students. And there is no restoring a jab thrown at a teacher.
Every time we send a disruptive and destructive student back to the classroom, we invite more trouble to invade the classroom. And that trouble can turn into a random adult coming on campus to assist in assaulting a high school student.
We need to place serious reforms on our campuses to return the focus to student achievement, rather than a substitute for a prison yard fight. The first is instructing and investing in administrators who are able to maintain discipline. Clovis Unified campuses are equipped with a Student Responsibility Center – the primary job of which is to manage discipline before it heads to Vice Principals and Principals. We need to emulate this program.
Fresno Unified also needs to reinstitute Saturday school for mid-level disciplinary offenses, institute new measures to ensure that campuses remain closed to outsiders and significantly reduce the reaction time when an unknown adult enters our campus property line.
Additionally, Fresno Unified should approve a policy change that ensures that disruptive, defiant and violent students who are attending schools outside their neighborhood track will face removal and transfer back to their home campus or placement in a beefed-up continuing education program to address the underlying causes of their disruption or destruction.
These incidents are not isolated anymore, and while the silence of Fresno Unified administrators and FTA officials serves as a black eye for their constant platitudes of promoting safe facilities, we are all on notice now.