Poll: Students generally feel safe at school

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A majority of students report feeling safe at school, and nearly all arrests of minors take place off campus, according to data from the Gilroy Unified School District.

District officials released the results of the investigation at an April 21 Board of Education meeting where administrators were asked to renew a deal for two school resource officers for the next year. The data was also discussed at a joint meeting on April 25 between Council and Gilroy City Council.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the deal. The town of Gilroy and the district will share the cost of $514,643, with council due to consider its share in May.

Prior to the pandemic, GUSD had two School Resource Officers, but the contract with the police department was not renewed for the 2020-21 school year because students were not on campus due to Covid-19 .

The district and council have agreed to bring back two officers in the fall, with the positions filled in December and January.

As students returned to in-person instruction in August, Superintendent Deborah Flores said the district has seen an increase in fights and other disciplinary issues.

According to district data, while alcohol and drug offenses have declined in the current year from pre-pandemic numbers, the number of high school fights resulting in suspensions s stood at 360 in March, above the 243 reported in 2019. -20.

“We weren’t surprised because the students stayed home for 14 months without interacting with each other,” Flores said. “A lot of stuff was piling up on social media.”

From August to March, police reported 24 arrests of minors outside the school campus, according to district data, while six of those occurred on campus, including four at Gilroy High School. .

An April survey of nearly 3,000 students, 870 parents and 221 district staff found that 79% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe at the classroom interior. Nearly 70% witnessed a fight on campus, while 61% of students said a school resource officer made them feel safe on campus. However, 26% said they had no contact with an agent at the time of the survey.

Flores said that while those who oppose having police on campus fear it will lead to more arrests, the data shows otherwise.

“That has never been true in our district,” she said. “Very few arrests take place in our schools. Our model includes a lot of prevention, intervention and relationship building with students and staff.

At the April 21 council meeting, two speakers called on the district to use the funding for more counselors and restorative justice and mental health programs, rather than police officers.

Flores said the district hired an additional mental health therapist and social worker this year.

Administrator Tuyen Fiack, who cast the only dissenting vote on the deal in October, backed it on April 21.

She said she liked the direction the program is taking, citing the work of officers to keep students from falling into the criminal justice system. She added that she wanted to see the demographics of respondents in the next survey.

“I think it’s a palliative,” she said. “I don’t think ORS on our campuses is a permanent solution.”

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