The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District will support common sense gun laws in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shootings, as well as support student rights to walkout, the Board agreed during a board meeting Thursday.
In the common sense gun law resolution, the Board “reaffirms and demands that all students have the right to attend schools that are safe from the threat of gun violence,” while also seeking to express to elected officials the Board’s “position that removal of semi-automatic weapons from our civil society is a necessary, crucial, and urgent step in ensuring the safety of our students and staff.”
In support of common sense gun laws and in response to the Parkland shootings, many students nationwide will walkout of their classes on March 14, a demonstration that will last 17 minutes to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Superintendent of SMMUSD Dr. Ben Drati said the Board will fully support district students during the demonstration, adding that the chief concern — whether with a potential student walkout or with gun laws — is the safety of children.
“We in the district recognize and respect student rights,” Dr. Drati said. “It’s freedom of speech. I don’t want anyone thinking that because we’re looking out for the safety of our students that we’re endorsing a political side. In case there’s a march, we’ll be there to support students in terms of safety. That’s always our primary goal, safety.”
Dr. Drati added that principals and staff within the district are “constantly evaluating safety protocols, trying to find ways to improve,” adding if someone hears or feels something that makes them “feel uneasy”, to report the behavior and student to administrators or call a school hotline.
To assist students that may be mentally troubled, the resolution asks elected state and federal legislators to fund schools to better serve students, asking to “hire additional psychologists, mental health coordinators, nurses, counselors, and social workers to support student mental health and well-being,” as well as provide funds to help intervene with at-risk youth.
Boardmember Ralph Mechur agreed with Drati, praising the resolution, saying, “We don’t need these weapons for a free and democratic society. Far from it. Supporting an assault weapons ban and supporting local efforts to help children cope with important issues is necessary.”
Public speakers addressed the issue, with local activist Jerry Rubin calling the resolution “much needed to figuring out this problem.”
Another public speaker, however, didn’t agree with the resolution.
Judson Yaker, a parent of a student in the SMMUSD, read a letter he wrote for the Board. In his reading of the letter, Yaker questioned why many public institutions besides schools have armed protection, adding that there’s “barely a grown man aside from a janitor” at his own child’s school.
The common sense gun law resolution was unanimously passed.