Security will be much tighter at all Turlock Unified School District campuses after the Board of Trustees approved a new comprehensive school site safety plan at Tuesday’s board meeting.
The district’s safety plan will require identification badges for students in grades 7 through 12 to be worn at all times starting next school year. Administration and staff will also be required to wear ID badges.
“If we’re going to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk as well,” said Superintendent Sonny DaMarto. “The adults need to set the example and transform this into a culture where everyone gets on board.”
Parents and all visitors will also be required to wear identification badges. This idea was met with skepticism and uncertainty from board members, who said they felt that not all community members will be on board with the new policy.
“This is going to be tough, especially for the parents,” said Trustee Tami Muniz. “We need to address our new policies to all the parents so they can expect these new changes. The more we let the community know the more it will help us in the long run.”
Other changes to the safety plan include extending the height of locking fences from 4 feet to 6 feet and trimming landscaping to improve visibility and remove hiding areas for potential intruders. The district will also purchase signs for all school sites directing visitors to the office.
“Vigilance is the most important thing in solving our issue,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor. “We want to keep a common sense approach to keep our sites safe. We need to get comfortable with the idea of approaching people and report it if they don’t have the proper identification.”
Turlock resident and local law enforcement officer Vince Hooper was present during the meeting and applauded the district for its efforts in keeping students safe.
“I commend Trainor and everyone who participated in the school safety plan,” said Hooper. “I still believe there are more ways we can ensure our children’s safety. Just because the school is constructed a certain way, it doesn’t meant it can’t be improved.”
Hooper, who videotaped himself walking around campus at Medeiros Elementary, pointed out lack of security on the campus in December 2012. Since then, Hooper has worked in conjunction with the district, Turlock PD and the fire department as part of the safety committee to help create an improved safety plan for all school sites within the district.
The updated safety plan will be implemented next year.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Trustee Frank Lima. “It’s time to turn these common sense approaches and transcend them into a culture which we can all abide by. It’s not going to be easy to implement, but it has to be consistent throughout the district.”