By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
After three meetings and hours of discussion and public input on school safety, the Las Cruces City Council unanimously passed a resolution at its June 18 meeting “to better ensure the safety of students in Las Cruces schools.”
As the meeting drew to a close, Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he will propose a resolution in the near future “denouncing the federal government for separating children from their parents.”
“You read my mind,” Mayor Pro-Tem Gill Sorg said.
Councilor Kasandra Gandara said she is already at work drafting a resolution condemning the Trump Administration for separating children from migrant parents recently deported from the United States.
More than 2,000 children of deported parents – the children were born in the U.S. and thus are American citizens – are being held at camps in Texas, including camps in Tornillo, less than 100 miles from Las Cruces.
Councilor Greg Smith said the children are being held in tents in extreme heat and expressed his “disgust with this action.”
“We need to address this growing man-made disaster,” Smith said.
SCHOOL SAFETY RESOLUTION
The school-safety resolution “expresses the city’s support for school safety by continuing to work with Las Cruces Public Schools regarding school resource officers (SROs),” who are armed law enforcement officers placed full-time at LCPS schools.
The action also shows the council’s continued support for a resolution it passed in 2016 calling for the New Mexico Legislature to support comprehensive background checks for people attempting to buy firearms, and it calls on the legislature and governor “to better secure the safety and education of young people by addressing the needs for better mental health services in New Mexico, the need for places of learning in New Mexico to be both conducive to learning and secure, and the need for weapons capable of doing great harm to be kept out of the hands of those wishing to do harm in New Mexico.”
The resolution was originally considered – and then tabled for further discussion – by the council at its March 19 meeting. The city’s Public Safety Policy Review Committee discussed the issue at an April 18 meeting and the council held an evening work session on the resolution May 21 at Oñate High School.
Smith, who drafted the resolution and revised it after the earlier meetings, said the first public school opened in the U.S. in 1835, and the first recorded school shooting was in 1853. The last year in which there was not a school shooting in the U.S. was 1972, Smith said.
From 1853-1988, he said, there were seven school shootings in which four or more people were killed. Since 1988, he said, there have been 11 school shootings in which four or more people have been killed. The number of annual school shootings, which include several in New Mexico, has spiked since 2012, he said.
School shootings include those at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, in April 1999, in which 15 people (including both perpetrators) were killed; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, in which 27 people (including the perpetrator) were killed; and Margory Stoneman Douglas High School in in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 in which 17 were killed.
“Our young people here in Las Cruces still have that fear in the classroom,” Smith said. “Children are learning” in school and should not be “constantly worrying about noises outside.”
“If you take away the guns, you take away the slaughter,” Mark Wood of Las Cruces said during public input about the school-safety resolution. “If they don’t get the guns, they’re not going to kill anybody.”
Wood, who said he served in the U.S. military for more than five years in the 1960s, said the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “says nothing about personal firearms.” The amendment addresses bearing arms to form militias,” Wood said.
“Guns are not the issue,” another speaker said during public input. “Additional laws won’t be honored by those intent on harming,” he said, adding that schools need better security.
The council resolution has no power, another speaker said. “Anything to take away (gun ownership) rights is a step in the wrong direction.”
Vietnam and Korean War veteran Ken Fitch said the council’s resolution is “too vague” and does not spell out which weapons should be kept out of dangerous hands or who those dangerous people are.
Las Cruces Public Schools School Board Vice President Terrie Dallman said the school district has made a budget adjustment to place an SRO in every LCPS school next school year, not just in middle and high schools.
School safety, Dallman said, is “a multi-faced problem that requires multi-faceted actions.”
Contributing factors include a “gross lack of mental health services,” bullying and gun reform, she said.
“Bullying has triggered many school shootings,” Jan Thompson said during public input.
Mayor Miyagishima said he and City Manager Stuart Ed will meet with LCPS Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing and School Board President Maria Flores to discuss how to help schools get additional SROs.
“Safe and responsible” gun owners are not affected by the school-safety resolution, said Councilor Gabe Vasquez, whose objection to the original resolution led to its tabling.
Mike Cook may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.