School safety was the hot issue at the most recent special meeting of the Burbank School Board at City Hall that lasted four hours and 37 minutes.
At times, it was highly emotional as several high school students said they have been sexually abused by other male students.
This theme became topical when a 22-year-old man entered Burbank High on March 6 and allegedly sexually assaulted three students, including a 14-year female.
Burbank police investigators spoke with two additional high school females, a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old who said they were touched inappropriately.
Burbank police were on the scene quickly and arrested and booked the alleged suspect for kidnapping, a felony, and sexual assault, and is being held in lieu of a 1.2 million bond.
The meeting allowed for numerous speakers to address the board. Here is a sample:
A man said, “that the schools should hire retired former policemen who would be in plainclothes and undercover and also be armed.”
A woman said, “this type of incident [March 6] should not be happening in Burbank. She went on to say, “one reason she moved to Burbank was its fine schools.”
Another woman with children in the Burbank Unified School District said, “there should be a scanning device and smart badges worn by students when they enter and leave the schools.”
She also said that there should be more security on campus.
Another woman said that the school board is “not proactive but reactive.”
Ever Huerta, the Burroughs High ASB president also spoke and said, “he’s there to raise awareness and come up with possible solutions. As a board we have failed our students.”
Another high school student said, “school is a place to learn. Injustice is when nothing is done.”
Yet another student said, “no one is being held accountable.”
When the dozen or so speakers finished, School Board President Steve Ferguson spoke.
“This is devastating to hear. Those comments. Those stories. It breaks my heart that you are holding that,” he said. “We have to do better.”
Ferguson also said he wants an audit looking at the last three years with respect to those sexual assaults.
Dr. Matt Hill also addressed the audience. “We heard your stories. It shouldn’t matter if we have children at BUSD,” he said. “How do we improve? How can we do better?”
School board member Charlene Tabet spoke. “We heard different kinds of stories tonight. I have two daughters and one son,” she said. “The only thing that I was concerned about is bullying. Being sexually abused is beyond my ability to understand. What would I do if that happened to my girls? I’d want to stand up and fight, to protect my girls and my son. We are going to look at safety issues.”
Dr. Emily Weisberg, the vice president, spoke. “I agreed with Dr. Hill. It shouldn’t matter if we have children in the district,” she said.
Dr. Armond Aghakhanian spoke. “You have to be accountable,” he said. “You don’t want our schools to be locked down, but if you see law enforcement, sometimes that’s what it takes to deter this.”
Toward the end of the meeting, a safety measure slide was presented. It read:
Safe School Plans.
1) Safety walks on campus.
2) Lockdown and shelter in place training.
3) Reduce ingress and number of gates.
4) Trained all BUSD staff on concentrating behaviors and reporting.
5) Increased cameras (reviewing and possibly adding more).
6) Quarterly meetings with BPD and MHET team.
7) School Threats Assessment Teams.
8) Anonymous hotline We Tip 800 873-7283 or www.wetip.com.
10) Implement training for students regarding intruders, reporting and safety.
11) Review check-in and check-out systems.
12) Upgrade facilities: fences, entrances, and gates.
13) Review the possibility of reducing the number of ingress and egress options.
14) Increase the number of cameras on campuses.
15) Review the joint use agreement from a safety perspective.
16) Continue to build and enhance school climate and safety protocols.
17) Continue annual training for students and staff.
18) Encourage participation on the quarterly district safety committee.