Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tehama County grand jury reports on Red Bluff High safety

Surveillance camera upgrades, photo identification and GPS systems among recommendations to make campus safer

July 1, 2014
Red Bluff Daily News
By Andre Byik

RED BLUFF >> The Tehama County 2013-2014 grand jury commended safety measures taken at Red Bluff Union High School that include a full-time school resource police officer, active shooter drills and increased gang awareness, and supplied additional recommendations to make the 1,600-student campus safer.
The grand jury decided to review safety measures at the high school because of violence that has struck schools across the U.S. and the 2013 death of Marysa Nichols, a 14-year-old charter school student found slain in a dry creek area behind Red Bluff High School's baseball field, according to its report released Friday.
The grand jury found that the access to that creek area, which recently was heavily cleared of vegetation by a crew of volunteers headed by the Cleaner, Greener Red Bluff group, has been more tightly secured and had its fence reinforced.
The grand jury also noted that new locks allow classroom doors to be locked from the inside instead of outside, and that there is a "stronger adult presence, including maintenance personnel, monitoring the activities on campus."
During interviews, according to the grand jury's report, it was learned that the school's previous on-campus police officer, now-detective Aaron Murray, filed 191 reports of gang activity that resulted in 66 citations and 55 arrests. The grand jury applauded school and law enforcement officials for their efforts in raising awareness of gang activity, and recommended that the high school's administration seek additional grants to "enhance campus security and create a five-year implementation plan."
The grand jury report comes on the heels of a memorandum written by Joe Harrop, the Red Bluff Joint Union High School District's interim superintendent, which questioned the value of the high school's school resource officer.
The high school district contributed about $68,000 toward the on-campus officer's salary, benefits and related computer software in the district's 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to the memo, The district also estimates about $1.2 million in deficit spending in the coming year.
"Whether or not an SRO on campus is worth that amount is subject to debate. If we can get one who will interact with students, establish rapport with them, and be out and around at passing times and when students come to or leave school, the SRO could be a valuable asset," Harrop wrote in the memo, which was acknowledged by the district's board of trustees at its meeting June 17, and spurred a full-throated defense of the school police officer position by Red Bluff Police Chief Paul Nanfito.
"The consensus is that this year's SRO was not worth what we paid for, and the Police Department has been informed about our concerns," Harrop said.
As it stands, the high school district has budgeted for a school resource officer for the coming school year.
In additional findings, the grand jury noted that the high school has about 50 surveillance cameras that are monitored by the school's resource officer, but that they do not "adequately monitor the entire campus," and are not connected to the Red Bluff Police Department. The grand jury recommended that the school should buy and upgrade the surveillance system as funds allow, and connect the cameras to the police department.
Other grand jury recommendations included evaluating whether Red Bluff High School could become a closed campus, implementing photo identification for school personnel, and installing GPS tracking systems on school buses by the 2015-2016 school year.
"In the event that a driver is unable to communicate with his/her dispatcher, administration would be able to track down the location of the bus," the grand jury report said.
The grand jury requested a response to its recommendations from the Tehama County Department of Education and Red Bluff Joint Union High School District superintendent.

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