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Cuesta takes aim at campus safety

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“I don’t think that [arming teachers] is the solution,” Cuesta Police Chief Brian Millard said. “You don’t normally solve guns with more guns.”
Photo by Josh Pachio / Cuestonian Staff Photographer


By Austin Brumblay
Managing Editor of Content

As Cuesta aims its sights on campus-wide safety — arming teachers remains a topic of debate amongst faculty and students.

President Trump has recently proclaimed that the answer to gun violence is to arm faculty members in schools as a countermeasure against campus shootings. This has caused some Cuesta students and faculty to become divided on the heated issue.

“I am absolutely against it,” said Melanie Barket, a Cuesta human development instructor. “It would be a nightmare. Guns do not belong at school.”

The debate comes in the wake of the February school shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida which prompted a gun control movement by students who had become fed up with the lack of political intervention.

The unprecedented student reaction has been gaining strength nationwide throughout the nation as evidenced by the gun control marches that occurred on March 24 across the country, including in San Luis Obispo.

Some, however, had rallied for the armament of teachers to defend schools.

“Arming teachers means that troubled students would be less likely to shoot up the school,” said John Montecillo, a second year recording arts major. “Just knowing that a teacher has a firearm is a good deterrent.”

Since the beginning of 2018, there has been on average one school shooting per week, according to data supplied by CNN. The 17 reported school shootings this year have left 27 dead and countless others affected.

San Luis Obispo county is no stranger to firearm culture; there are seven gun retailers in the county and two gun ranges, with one being less than five miles from the SLO Cuesta campus.

The Cuesta Police Department Officers are currently the only members of the campus that have firearm access and uphold the same jurisdictions as a traditional police department.

In response to recent school shooting tragedies, Cuesta PD has increased training and preparation for a campus shooter threat, according to Cuesta Police Chief Brian Millard.

“During the past two years, our department has focused on procedural and equipment upgrades to allow our department a greater degree of readiness in the event of a campus shooter,” Millard said. “Some of these items have included upgraded ballistic vests that protect our officers against high-caliber rounds, accurate electronic mapping for Cuesta…and new policy guidelines.”

Training has also included a simulated shooter threat training program in cooperation with SLOPD that allows Cuesta PD members to practice engaging a threatening scenario.

“This simulator allows lifelike responses to a variety of potential threats that would be very difficult to accomplish otherwise,” he said.

According to the administration, Cuesta does not have any plans in the foreseeable future to arm faculty.

“I don’t think that [arming teachers] is the solution,” Millard said. “You don’t normally solve guns with more guns.”

Many of the surveyed faculty shared the sentiment that guns would do more harm than good in the classroom.

“I worry that [a teacher] might not be well enough trained to handle a firearm,” said Carla Swift, a Cuesta communications professor. “Even trained officers make mistakes. Just think much more likely it can it be for a teacher.”

Cuesta has, however, implemented a lock down feature in the new 2600 building — where the push of a red wall button that reads “lock down” will seal all doors and windows in the facility.

The new North County Campus building scheduled to open next fall will also include lock down features, according to North County Campus officials.

Due the age and complications of installation, a lock down function will not be added to the preexisting campus buildings, according to Millard.

San Luis Obispo Police Department has also become proactive about teacher and student safety. An app called Rave Mobile Safety allows SLO county teachers to notify the police department of an emergency from the push of a button on their phone, according to SLOPD.

Currently the app is only available for K-12 SLO County schools, but Cuesta is looking into a college alternative, according to Millard.

“Cuesta is in discussions with the same company that made the app for the county schools,” Millard said. “Our hope is that within the next year, an app will be available not only for staff and teachers, but also free to students, so that anyone on Cuesta campuses can report suspicious activity or an emergency to our department immediately.”

According to Millard the steps Cuesta and SLOPD are taking is the right direction but there has to be a shift.

“All of this is reactive, the issues lie in the prevention strategies,” Millard said.