Poway students call for improved school safety, more mental health resources

Posted at 6:16 AM, Apr 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-20 09:16:09-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Dozens of Poway Unified School District students appeared at a school board meeting Thursday to ask for more mental health resources.

Nicole Parks, a senior at Del Norte High School, spoke on behalf of classmates who stood behind her wearing shirts that read "School Safety is Not a Political Issue."

"Students have to wonder is my school next this is a terrifying question. As students, we believe we would be more productive if we didn’t have the fear of possibly being shot at school," said Parks.

She told the board her fears keep her up at night.

"For weeks, I had the same recurring dream someone bringing a gun to school to find me and kill me first, this should not be a normal fear," said Parks.

Currently, Poway Unified has four full-time counselors and one part-time counselor in each high school. That's roughly one counselor for 500 students -- at a time when kids say emotional support is needed now more than ever.

"No other generation has had the constant anxiety of a school shooting with the added academic pressure and our environments being more competitive than ever before. Mental health has never been more important. We believe our students need prevention before intervention,” said Parks.

The students also want more of a focus on emotional well-being.

"The counselors now focus most on academic planning, scheduling and they meet with students after an emotional crisis and they’re more reactive," said freshman Stephan Abrams.

Del Norte High School Principal Greg Mizel said he's proud of the students' mission, but he said there are financial realities.

"Counselors are expensive and counselors are an ongoing cost. This is not simply going to be solved, but student safety is everyone's priority," said Mizel, adding there's also the challenge of a revolving door of students.

"The other part you have to remember is they say goodbye to five to six-hundred kids every year at graduation who they built relationships with and they have to get to know five or six-hundred more," said Mizel.

The issue was not on the agenda, so the board did not take action or make any comment.

Students in Poway, and other schools across San Diego County, have various walk outs and demonstrations scheduled for Friday, April 20 -- the 19th anniversary of the deadly shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.