San Diego Unified considers comprehensive approach to school violence

Mental health and ban on assault weapons are key

San Diego - San Diego's mayor and police chief are expected to join the president of San Diego Unified's Board of Trustees Tuesday to announce what is being called a comprehensive plan to prevent gun violence on district campuses.

"Our mission is to educate the students, but even above that is the safety of our students," said  board president John Lee Evans.
Evans authored the resolution that calls for a ban on assault weapons in California and across the nation, and calls for expanded mental health screenings and services for troubled youth.

"There are just too many cracks in the mental health system and that's what we’re trying to call attention to," said Evans.  "What we can do in the short run is really train teachers to just be aware of some of the warning signs and to reach out to parents and the community when they see something going on in which a student might need help."

Evans, who is a mental health professional, said the San Diego Psychological Association has agreed to offer its services, free of charge, to train teachers and counselors on at-risk students and where they and their families can go for help.

Evans pointed out that nearly all the school shooters, from Columbine High School to Sandy Hook Elementary, showed signs of mental issues that were recognized, but not acted upon.

When asked if mental health screenings amounted to a form of profiling, Evans said not at all.

"This is why we want the psychologists to be talking to the teachers, so they don't label every eccentric or odd behavior as being dangerous. One thing I want to make very clear as a mental health professional is that mental illness is not necessarily equated with violence," said Evans.

On the subject of banning assault weapons, Evans said not a single person has been able to convince him that a regular citizen needs them.

Evans' resolution not only calls for the reinstatement of the federal assault weapon ban that expired in 2004, but also the support of President Obama's "Now is the Time" plan to reduce gun violence and fund school safety grants across the nation.

While he realizes no system will be 100 percent safe in protecting children at school, Evans said the programs he is endorsing are "like putting on a seatbelt before getting in the car."

School board members and the public will have a chance to discuss the resolution at Tuesday evening's meeting at the Eugene Brucker Education Center.

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