Taft HS proposed safety plan calls for hiring an additional social worker and retaining on-campus police officers
by BRIAN NADIG
The proposed 2021-22 safety plan for Taft High School calls for the school to keep its four on-campus police officers and to hire an additional social worker.
Th plan was presented at the June 8 meting of the Taft High School Local School Council, which is expected to vote on th plan at a special meeting later this month. The plan’s recommendations came from a committee that included students, assistant principals, teachers, school security personnel and parents.
There were a total of 433 responses to a recent safety survey conducted by the school, and a majority of teachers, students and parents voiced support for Taft keeping its four school resource officers, according to Taft principal Mark Grishaber. Last year the LSC unanimously voted to have Taft retain its four SROs, two on the varsity campus and two on the freshman campus.
The school system is offering high schools $50,000 in additional funding for each SRO position it eliminates, meaning that Taft would be eligible to receive up to $200,000. However, it does not appear schools would receive those funds on an annual basis in exchange for fewer SROs, Grishaber said.
“The only thing I’ve been promised is one year. It’s a one-year deal,” Grishaber told the LSC.
“We have four good SROs,” Grishaber said. “I’ve seen them one-on-one with our kids.”
The plan also identifies several areas of concern, including that only 65 percent of Taft students feel safe in the school’s bathrooms and that 64 percent of the teachers are concerned with disorder in the hallways. The plan calls for the hiring of additional security personnel in an effort to better monitor the hallways and bathrooms.
In addition, 57 percent of teachers were concerned with students being disrespectful to them. “When do parents take responsibility for their kids? Should that be put in the safety plan,” LSC parent member Chris Raguso said.
Currently Taft has 2.4 funded social worker positions, but the plan calls for the hiring of an additional social worker who would focus on social-emotional learning and skill-building with students.
The school also is looking at increasing its number of community partner clinicians working at Taft and to explore animal assisted supports/Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy, which includes the use of specially trained dogs that work with children.
LSC members had a lengthy discussion on whether to vote on the plan in June or wait until July when three new parent members will have been appointed to the council. Three current parent members, Kathy Fern, Krissy Estrada and Monica Moore, will be leaving the council at the end of this school year because their child is graduating.
Most of the LSC members voiced support for having the current members vote, arguing that that they have been involved in several SRO-related discussions in the past year and are familiar with the history of the debate.
LSC teacher representative Scott Pencner urged for a delay in the vote, arguing that the new appointees would have a great resource, their own students who attend Taft, to base their decision on.
A date for the special meeting has not been announced, but it is expected to be held before June 23.