Some parents are pressing the Kyrene School District governing board to address racism and ways to prevent a school shooting.
In unrelated appearances before the board on Feb. 27, parent Deborah Davis complained that her daughter has been called the N-word and wanted to know what the district will do about it.
And parent Scott Weinberg urged the board to hold a community discussion on ways to prevent a shooting in any Kyrene school.
Weinberg also asked the board to request a fulltime school resource officer for all 25 district schools, petition Gov. Ducey to create a task force on school violence and to ask the state Legislature to give “properly licensed teachers and staff the option to carry concealed weapons on campus.”
There was no reaction at the meeting to either parent’s requests. State law forbids municipal council and school board members from commenting on speakers’ remarks during the portion of a public meeting reserved for time-limited appearances by citizens.
However, in a letter from Superintendent Jan Vesely to him that Weinberg posted on his Facebook site, Secure Our Schools AZ, Vesely said that the agenda for the board meeting slated on March 6 – after AFN’s deadline – had already been set.
Hence, the forum Weinberg requested has yet to be scheduled.
Vesely told Weinberg: “The district is considering conducting a community forum with our safety committee, to allow input into any future plans and recommendations. We will share that information as soon as details have been confirmed
She also called attention to ongoing plans the district has “for identifying students with acute behavior problems; and a system for providing interventions and therapies for at-risk students.”
Vesely had rolled out that plan last month to the board, which will be voting in the spring on whether to adopt it.
“Let me assure you that while we do not have a school resource officer (SRO) assigned to each of our schools, we do work with law enforcement to ensure rapid response in the event of an emergency,” Vesely also wrote.
She declined to discuss specifics “so as not to increase the vulnerability of our schools.”
Kyrene several years ago renovated the front offices at most of its schools, enclosing the people who work in them with glass windows.
Weinberg told the board, however, that the shooter who took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut shot out the front office class at that school and then continued into the building.
“We can and should learn from these events and take appropriate action to lower the possibility that the next horrific event will occur in our community,” he said, conceding that no amount of precautions can eliminate the possibility of a school shooting entirely.
But, he said, the district should make security “its top priority.”
Another parent who appeared said the district should also address the safety of Kyrene’s after-school program venues.
Meanwhile, Davis, who did not indicate where her daughter attends school, told the board her daughter has been racially harassed since Feb. 20 but it took a week for someone from the district to get back to her.
“Is there anything in place when this happens?” she asked, noting that it was still Black History Month at the time and “I don’t see anything that pertains to Black History Month in any of the schools.”
Weinberg told AFN that the latest school shooting in Parkland was the last straw.
“I’ve been thinking about school security since my children started attending school, but what happened in Parkland motivated me to get more involved,” he said.
“My children are in grade school this year but next year my daughter will be attending a middle school that does not have a school resource officer,” he added.
A CPA, Weinberg said he doesn’t intend to stop pressing officials on the issues he raised.
He said he would “like to speak with local law enforcement leadership about assigning at least one school resource officer to every school in the Kyrene School District” and wants “to meet with my state representatives about sponsoring additional legislation to strengthen school security across Arizona.”
As to whether he would be making the same plea to the Tempe Union High School Governing Board, he replied:
“At the moment, Secure Our Schools AZ is a one-man operation and I’m not able to attend both board meetings. I’d love to work with other parents who have similar concerns about school security.”