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Calif. school safety plans under scrutiny | News

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Calif. school safety plans under scrutiny

SACRAMENTO, CA - Every July, schools are supposed to turn in their safety plan to the state ... how they evacuate students, whether they have locked doors while classes are in session, which people they let in, are security cameras in place? Are people trained to react?

One state senator is upset that the last numbers he could find indicate that more than half - 53 percent of schools - did not comply in 2009.

"And because we don't keep good track of this data, we don't know in the last two years whether the situation has gotten worse or better," said Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance.

In light of the Connecticut shooting, the state has asked all California schools to review their safety plan.

After Columbine, lawmakers allocated roughly $90 million a year for security improvements, but as the recession wore on and squeezed the state budget, school finance consultants say leaders allowed flexibility in how that money is spent.

"That means it's unrestricted funding now," Gerry Shelton with Capitol Advisors said. "School districts can spend on anything they want to do. It doesn't have to be spent any longer on school prevention and violence prevention."

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlaksons says schools are safe. There are lessons to be learned from Connecticut, but we can't go to the extreme.

"We can't live in fear, and we can't turn our schools in fortresses with barbed wire and metal detectors," Torlaksons said. "There'd be enormous costs to that and would change the atmosphere at our schools. So we have to find a balance."

But Lieu thinks California schools should start with the basics of having a safety plan in place and he is re-introducing a bill that would withhold some funding from schools if they didn't have one in place in case a shooting similar to Connecticut happened here.

"It's so tragic," Lieu said. "I just want to make sure that in California, we take whatever steps we can to try and mitigate or prevent future tragedies."

Nannette Miranda


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