I am empathetic to Dr. Lisette Gold’s worrying about the safety of her kids in and around Samohi (“More safety around Samohi,” Letters to the Editor, July 22). I tossed and turned more than a few nights, fretting about Samohi’s lack of interest in keeping my kids safe.
What Dr. Gold needs to realize is that Samohi and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District aren’t “waiting for worse to happen” — they are ensuring it. SMMUSD has decided to issue “out of district” permits to and for any kid that wants to come to school here.
SMMUSD is interested in money, and only money. They need headcount — the more the headcount, the more state funding they receive. Safety is just one area of compromise that SMMUSD is more than happy to live with, as long as the state revenue checks keep rolling in.
SMMUSD’s only priorities are to assure that their jobs are secure, their pensions are funded and that their salaries remain the highest in the country. SMMUSD doesn’t care where the headcount comes from. Issues such as juvenile crime, gang affiliations or the racial tension that will come along with the headcount are of little or no concern.
Dr. Gold’s plea for action and patrols based on recently documented gang activity around Samohi reminds me again of when Oscar de la Torre (current and always incumbent SMMUSD board member) brought gang members onto the Samohi campus. For whatever reason, Mr. de la Torre felt the need to flex his muscles and flaunt his associates, while taunting police, causing turmoil and instilling fear in students that were not used to gang intimidation. The result of his stunt was police alienation and a noticeable higher student absentee rate for the days that followed. (Yes, I kept my kids home for a few days).
For those of us that remember, it was a day when then Principal Ilene Strauss hid in her office, and when John Deasy, then SMMUSD superintendent, was left pretty much speechless in his early days of radio interviews. Although it’s all water under the bridge now, there are just some SMMUSD memories and history that won’t go away. And history does seem to keep repeating itself with SMMUSD.
It’s always about the need for funding, re-distributing donations, possible staff cuts, dire need — blah, blah blah. It’s never about increasing safety, and their stopgap plan to prevent student unrest or gang activity so far is to offer a couple of classes on racial differences, tolerance and cultural studies; not much of a match for guns or gang activity on or near campus, is it?
Nothing seems to have changed in the years since I was a Samohi parent. Dr. Gold’s kids are no more safe than my kids were, and safety is still not the top priority. Eliminating the out-of-district permits entirely would be a good place to start, but SMMUSD would have to tighten their own belts, forfeit the funding from the additional headcount, and actually put safety first for “in district” kids.
I find myself wondering, since SMMUSD won’t address the safety problem, do we want more gang activity here? Will throwing money at the school safety issue fix it? Is SMMUSD really capable of doing something other than what benefits them personally? Do we want or expect our kids to bear the brunt of overcrowded classrooms and less individual attention? When SMMUSD says there’s no money for additional patrols or campus security, will you believe them? Would SMMUSD be open to the idea of putting “our” kids first?

Lori Emerson
Santa Monica

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