WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Directors will consider reinstating its School Resources Officer (SRO) program, just over a year after it was canceled.
Trustees voted unanimously on Wednesday to discuss the matter at an emergency meeting on September 15.
The meeting will also include a discussion of other security measures such as adding a cell phone tower at Aptos High School to improve communication, cutting trees to increase visibility of security cameras and l ‘Addition of supervisors on campus, said PVUSD Superintendent Dr. Michelle Rodriguez.
“The critical examination of the incident has just started,” she said.
Decision comes following gang-related case stabbing attack on the Aptos High campus on August 31 that left a 17-year-old boy dead. Two students, 14 and 17, were arrested. Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart told a community forum on September 2 that the two suspects were “gang members” and would likely be held in Juvenile Hall pending trial. District Attorney Jeff Rosell has filed the “appropriate charges” in the case, Hart said.
Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Michael McKinney declined to comment, saying a judge ordered the hearings to be confidential.
When administrators canceled the SRO program in July 2020, they cited comments from community members, who said having a law enforcement official on campus intimidated some students.
They also say that a law enforcement response – rather than a socio-emotional response – was the wrong approach to dealing with at-risk students.
The article carried 5-2, Directors Georgia Acosta and Daniel Dodge, Jr. dissenting.
Since the stabbing, many people have questioned the ruling, saying the police presence could prevent some crime on campus.
“There is a perception of not feeling safe,” Hart said.
Hart says that in the 22 years of the SRO program’s existence at Aptos High, there has never been a similar violent incident. He added that he supports the socio-emotional support of the students, but not at the expense of campus security.
“I feel like it doesn’t have to be a conversation between one or the other,” says Hart. “It doesn’t have to be, are we going with socio-emotional support or are we going with campus safety?” I think we can merge those two things together.
The students returned to campus on September 3. A memorial for their classmate killed with several flowers, balloons and notes had formed at the entrance to the school on Freedom Boulevard. And on September 5, the Watsonville Peace and Unity March and the Santa Cruz County Community Action Council (CAB) held a vigil at Romo Park in downtown Watsonville. About 200 people showed up and about half a dozen speakers called for an end to gang violence and more mental health, pro-social and employment resources for the region’s youth.
“People face poverty. People are facing hunger. People are facing housing insecurity, ”said CAB Director General Maria Elena De La Garza. “And violence is a symptom of these root causes. “
The SRO discussion is scheduled for September 15 at 6 p.m. at Lakeview Middle School. The location could change, however. See pvusd.net/PVUSD for more information.