In the wake of gun violence in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, students all over the country – with many in Washington DC, will march to protest gun violence and demand legislators in state houses and Congress do something about the availability of assault weapons.
The Washington Post has this amazing story on how this generation of school children has grown up facing the threat of active shooters on campus, not just earthquake or fire drills. It’s a sad state of affairs when schools have to undergo this exact sort of training but spend some time on the link to read about the extent of gun violence in this country.
On March 14, thousands of students walked out of class for 17 minutes throughout Orange County. Teachers were not allowed to demonstrate support one way or another, and school districts struggled to figure out how to handle paperwork. Schools on both the East and West Coast seemed more tolerant of letting the kids walkout; schools in the Midwest and parts of the south issued detentions; in some cases, kids were threatened with suspension. Those schools miss the point.
With the exception of the San Bernardino shooting a few years ago, Southern California hasn’t (knock on wood) had an active shooter situation that made national news. While my kids have graduated from IUSD, I’m still on parent alert text networks and other neighborhood social media to learn there was a school lockdown at the elementary school and high school near my home when Irvine police were pursuing three home thieves that were caught near the schools. Last April, there was a lockdown at Northwood High over a phone threat. News coverage was detailed and the kids were texting parents like crazy confirming their safety.
Last month, I was sent a YouTube video from a reading in Huntington Beach. The video was an impromptu rally at a public park featuring comments from Gina Clayton-Tarvin, a Democrat who is on the OCUSD school board. See the video here. She also teaches in another district and in her public comments, offered a breathtaking account on protecting kids in her class during an active shooter event. My first thought is, “this woman is a hero; why don’t more people know about this?”
I reached out to Clayton-Tarvin, whom I do not know, and said I wanted to write about her. She made an unusual request that I publish her answers verbatim, which I agreed. Here is her response:
As a 22-year public school teacher in Los Angeles County and elected school board official in Orange County for the past 5 years; I know that gun violence on school campuses is becoming all too common in our nation. I was horrified to learn that yet another school shooting had occurred, this time in Parkland, Florida. This heinous act of mass murder has shaken the entire country to its core. I shudder at the thought of something like this occurring on one of our local campuses. We need to take precautions to safeguard students.
As a junior high school teacher in Hawaiian Gardens from 1995 to 2005, I experienced multiple occurrences that forced students and teachers to lie down on the floor and shelter in place during “lockdowns.” I have huddled on the floor holding my breath in silence, lights out, and heart pounding with 35 scared kids because of threats of a gunman on campus. Gang and other crime activity are all too real and common in Hawaiian Gardens. We locked down too many times due to suspects with loaded weapons on campus, and a shooting adjacent to our classrooms. The brave officers of the now closed Hawaiian Gardens Police Department were there to respond, protect, and secure the campus, safeguarding students and staff while apprehending suspects. Due to their bravery, students were protected. These incidents were not widely reported. However, just in the past several weeks since the shooting in Florida, multiple threat incidents have been reported to the LA County Sheriff’s Department and student arrests have occurred. Luckily, all of the threats have been deemed as non-credible but frightening nonetheless. In Huntington Beach, one threat was made to an OVSD school, but deemed non-credible after the fact by HBPD. Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant.
While I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, I can’t ignore the realities of today’s world. I am an ardent supporter of stricter gun laws that would prevent the sale of military type AR-15 weaponry and bump stock ammunition. In line with the California Education Code, I do not support teachers arming themselves or keeping guns in their classrooms. It is illegal for any firearm to be on school grounds.
Luckily in ABCUSD where I teach, and OVSD where I govern, we have multiple trainings per year on active shooter scenarios as well as participating in lockdown scenarios. In fact, in OVSD, “Run, Hide, Fight” training has been given by HBPD to all staff in our HB based schools. See this video for details on the program. https://www.sausd.us/Page/34190
The Westminster Police Department has trained our Westmont School Staff not only on active shooter scenarios, but also on what to do in the aftermath. See article for details of OVSD and WPD collaboration for school safety.
School districts have varying services for counseling and mental health for students. In OVSD, there are school psychologists, as well as referrals to the Compass Center therapists that serve all of the five school districts that encroach into Huntington Beach. When crisis situations occur, the Human Resources Department deploys a crisis management team to school sites to help work with students and staff.
In OVSD, there are no plans for students to participate in the March 24th actions planned around the country. Concomitant to this, I will not be at work in my classroom in Cerritos that day, and my own students will not be participating in any walk out. I will be attending a California Federation of Teachers convention as a delegate and have no connection to the March 24th activities.
Not one more child should die; guns should not take precedence over people. Campus safety is of paramount importance to me and I look forward to increasing security on school campuses in OVSD with our planned security upgrades using Measure R general obligation bond funds. We can take action to protect students and we must make our voices heard from southern California to Washington D.C.
I wanted to know more about the “multiple occurrences” at Fedde Junior High and I can’t find anything online. I consulted a family friend who was retired from a senior position at LAPD, and he said he can’t remember anything specific but wouldn’t rule out activity from LASD due to gang activity in that area; Hawaiian Gardens no longer has a police department and documenting these claims is difficult.
I am delighted to hear Clayton-Tarvin’s positions on student safety and counseling, but considering the details reported about the school lockdown in Irvine, I wanted more details on what happened in Hawaiian Gardens and I just can’t find it. If someone can, please send me links.
The Guardian did publish this on March 14 and I’m sure Clayton-Tarvin would be proud of the kids who walked out even if she can’t advocate for the walkout. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2018/mar/14/wednesday-walkout-gun-control-parkland-florida-students-live
From the Guardian:
At Ocean View High School in ultra-conservative Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles, about a hundred students out of 1,600 congregated on the grass in front a sign advertising the school team, the Seahawks, with banners declaring “Never forget” and “Protect kids, not guns”.
With police officers and school district officials watching closely, 17 of the protesters took turns lying down on the grass in memory of the 17 dead in Parkland, Florida. The 17 wore white t-shirts, each with a hand-drawn black letter. Together they read: “NEVER AGAIN – STAND UP.”
Students burst into sporadic chants of “Enough is enough!” Passing cars at the busy intersection of Warner Avenue and Gothard Street honked approvingly, and the students responded with cheers.
At 10:17am, organizer Quinn Bosselman called for a minute’s silence and read the names of the dead from Parkland through a megaphone. He then urged everyone to return to class quickly so they would be marked only tardy, not absent.
“This is the only country in the world where these mass shootings happen regularly,” Bosselman said. “We’ve seen Las Vegas and Orlando and each time you just think, here we go again. But Parkland is different. These kids are keeping it in the news and we want to give them every support.”
Even the more liberal students said they were uninterested in scoring political points by staking out their anti-gun positions and arguing futilely with more conservative peers and family members who believed strongly in their Second Amendment rights. Ada Mary Saldana, a senior, said she’d argued with her conservative 30-year-old brother-in-law but was glad they had some common ground.