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Southern California Public School System’s Increase Security

Several schools in Southern California have been victims of mass school shootings in recent years. In 2014 the University of California Santa Barbara a student killed six and injured 14 before taking his own life. Similar incidents occurred at Los Angeles High school in 2012 and Gardena High school in 2011. Apart from government efforts to improve gun laws several public school system’s have taken it upon themselves to adjust safety precautions.

 

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Gardena High school has experienced this frightful event two times, once in 2002 and the other in 2011. Gardena High math teacher, Mrs. Anagu has seen how this affected the school’s security over time. “We have cameras in classrooms and hallways which I pull student’s attention to. I like students to know we are being watched. Drop down drills and lockdowns are also enforced if there are police activities around school.” said Anagu.

The staff and faculty have made it a priority to be extra attentive of students and the classroom environments they provide. “I am now very careful to keep classroom conversations focused on classwork and the curriculum, no side bars. I am also mindful of awkward behaviors of students or anybody in the classroom.” said Anagu.

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Another math teacher who was working at the time of both shootings recalls the events and the lasting impact they left. Due to privacy reasons and school regulations regarding the press, he asked to be anonymous. “I’ve been a teacher here for more than 15 years and recently we have been instructed to stand by our classroom doors during passing periods in order to report any suspicious activity” he said. Unfortunately after reaching out the Los Angeles Unified School District’s media relations never responded.

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Courtesy of csba.org

According to csba.org there have been 59 K-12 school shootings in California since the year 1992, resulting in a total of 56 casualties. Out of those 59 shootings 12 are reported to have occurred before or after school on school grounds. Unfortunately it is difficult to prevent these types of occurrences, which is why many schools encourage teachers to invest time in their students. “Could someone had done something or said something to have stopped these incidents in time? The depths of my thoughts concerning the waste of human life can never be put into words” said Anagu.

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Warren High School located in Downey has never experienced this national tragedy but has been faced with threats in the past. “Last year we had a student threaten to bring a gun to school and commit an act of violence. The young man posted a message on his social media that caught the school’s attention. Students and parents were advised immediately and the school was equipped with police officers the very next day ready to arrest the student” said Spanish teacher Jay Waldren.

The Press Telegram reported the ninth grade student posted “theres gonna be a shooting” on his Instagram account. The student also claimed this would occur on March 20th of 2015. Students from the school quickly noticed the post and shared it with classmates. Nicole Romero is one of many students from Warren High School who saw this post. “This is something that you think will never happen to you, I heard about this post and told my mom she was so scared she didn’t send me to school that day. I am kind of glad the school administrators here are really nosy and on top of things. I guess since you never know what can happen they just want to make sure we are careful” said junior Nicole Romero.

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Bianca Favela is a student who has since then graduated but attended the school at the time this threat was made. “I actually didn’t go to school that day because I was scared something was going to happen. I read in the news that this threat was supposed to be a joke but I don’t know why anyone would joke about this especially when people have actually lost loved ones in school shootings” said Bianca Favela.

According to the Press Telegram’s report the Downey Police released the student that same day pending legal proceedings at a juvenile courthouse in the area. Police found the student’s remarks were intended as a joke. Public relations coordinator for the Downey Unified School District, Ashley Greaney explained how facilities is in charge of facilities. Nothing major was done as a direct response to this specific incident,  additional security was imposed due to a general need.

Schools such as Gardena High School and others have taken the measures necessary to provide a safe learning environment. This change in their security has been a result of criminal offenses on campus or recent increase in violent school crimes in society. There are different kinds of security measures used in America’s public schools, two mentioned previously are security cameras and communication between parents, teachers and students.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics the percentage of school’s that used one or more security cameras in the years 2013-14 was 75 percent whereas 2009-10 where it was 61 percent. Also the amount of schools that had an anonymous threat reporting system and electronic notification system in case of emergencies was significantly higher as well. Other safety practices implemented in 2013-14 was control of access to school buildings and requiring staff to wear badges or picture IDs. The restriction of cell phone use during school hours was also one that more schools began to push.

Last October we saw president Obama overcome by grief and shaken up by the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. After this specific incident Obama took time to address the nation. “Each time this happens, I am going to say we are going to have to do something about it. And we are going to have to change our laws.” said President Obama. Unfortunately mass shootings specifically in public schools has been a recurrent crime over the past few years.

According to a report by CNN’s Stephen Collinson, Obama has made over 15 addresses regarding mass shootings during his time in office. This type of crime has made headlines many times but the public has yet to see a direct response. Collinson wrote, “Obama gave no details of a new push to get gun laws and legislation requiring more comprehensive background checks through Congress. And it appears unlikely he will be successful in forging any type of gun legislation before he leaves the White House in January 2017.”

There has been much debate on the amount of security that should be allowed at our public schools in light of this national tragedy. Suggestions that have been mentioned include arming teachers, placed armed guards in every school building, locking down the school with bullet-proof glass and training faculty and staff on what to do during an attack.

The Post Star reports on the need for a balanced approach when dealing with school security especially in a time when school budgets are tight. This report also stresses the idea that most school were not designed with security in mind much less a system that is specific for attacks. Advancing security was not the only response by the public school systems. Many schools now come equipped with a counseling center specifically for when tragedies like this occur. For more information on this issue theiacp.org offers a guide for preventing and responding to school violence.

Money pit or profit center? Small colleges flip script on athletic spending

On April 28, the University of Massachusetts faculty senate voted to recommend that the administration drop the football program from Division I FBS (85 scholarships) to Division I FCS (63 scholarships) or drop the program altogether. The move would come five years after the school transitioned to FBS in search of more revenue for the athletic department.

Earlier in the month, Eastern Michigan’s faculty senate made the same recommendation.

The UMass athletic department spent more than $28.5 million in subsidy money to fund the department, which came from a student fee and money from the university’s general fund.

EMU required more than $27.3 million in subsidy money.

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The universities with the largest subsidies. (USA Today)

For many, the costs of operating a Division I athletic department, especially with an expensive football program, are too high in the face of rising tuition and less public funding.

Many deplore the spending of university money on athletics when academic programs get reduced funding or cut altogether.

In their yearly report on NCAA Division I institutions’ athletic finances, USA Today found that only 12 institutions operated their athletic departments solely on their own revenues, which includes ticket sales, TV contracts and donations to the department.

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The highest revenue producing universities in 2015. (USA Today)

Some of those athletic departments even give money back to the university. Louisiana State reports an average $8.7 million dollar subsidy back to the cash-strapped university.

 

However, the rest need subsidy funding from the university in the form of student fees or monies from the university’s general fund.

The amount of money large, football-playing schools generate has even led for many to call to pay the players for the money that they are essentially responsible for bringing to the school.

The vast majority of colleges exist outside of Division I, playing in Division II and III as well as in the NAIA, the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and several other smaller organizations. There is no profit to be made and no one watching on TV, save for parents watching an internet stream.

At this level, the budgets aren’t nearly as steep. Fewer to no athletic scholarships are given and travel is much more limited to regional competition and bus-able routes.

Still, the average Division II institution’s athletic budget as of the 2011-12 academic year was $4 million for schools without football and $5.3 million for schools with football.

According to the NCAA report, these schools generated an average of $624,000 in revenue, leaving the rest to be funded by the institution.

That is an expensive bill for the institutions to pick up.

However, institutions continue to fund and in many cases expand the department.

For those below the Division I level, the benefits outweigh the costs, and in many cases, the institutions are turning a “profit”off the programs.

The “profit” is students paying tuition. With far fewer athletic scholarships offered in lower divisions, the expense becomes far less for institutions.

The athletic department acts as a way for schools to attract students who normally wouldn’t be interested in attending.

At Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California, a school founded in 2005 with an attendance of more than 200 students, according to athletic director Dr. Chuck Ryor, athletics are a vital part of their enrollment. Almost half of the student population are athletes.

“Athletics is another means for us to reach college students who might otherwise not want to come to a liberal arts school, with the kind of theological emphasis we have,” Ryor said.

The college wants to continue to expand their enrollment to over 400. Expanding the athletic program to attract students is part of that.

The same is true for Life Pacific College, members of the NCCAA, in San Dimas, California. The school of 609 students cut the athletic program in 2007, but restarted it this year with women’s volleyball and men’s basketball, and plans to add men’s and women’s cross country, soccer, golf and women’s basketball over the next five years.

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Life Pacific’s new gym, hosting the men’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams.

“It’s a great avenue to bring more kids in and give them more opportunities to be in an athletic environment. It boosts numbers and it boosts financial numbers,” athletic director and head basketball coach Tim Cook said. “Minimal scholarship sports add to the overall value of the school. “

While Life Pacific and Providence Christian represent the smallest, most niche institutions, the small enrollment mean each student’s tuition is important in the funding of the university. But, they aren’t the only ones who see athletic programs as drivers of enrollment.

Danny Barnts, now the sports information director of Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego, says that during his time working at Western Oregon, the public university of 6,214 entertained adding junior varsity teams as a way to attract tuition—paying athletes with minimal expense.

Barnts offered Pacific University, in Oregon, as an example of this. The Division III institution offers seven JV programs along with 22 varsity teams, including a rare women’s wrestling team.

But for Barnts current institution, Point Loma, the Sea Lions don’t have the same need to drive enrollment as it is capped at 3,600.

There, the university’s 10 athletic teams are seen as a part of the student life of the university.

“Athletics is supposed to be one of the focuses of the student on campus entertainment for the regular students to add to the student life aspect,” Barnts said.

At Life Pacific, the benefits to campus culture are noticed as well.

“It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen, the environment that our sports have created for students,” Cook said. “People are painting their bodies, you can’t get a seat in our gym, and everything revolves around volleyball and basketball for the community to come out. It has transformed the campus.”

But small, private universities aren’t the only ones competing at lower levels. Cal Poly Pomona, a large, primarily commuter campus of 22,000, plays in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, a conference of state institutions in Division II.

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Cal Poly Pomona’s sprawling campus.

There, a student-athletes in-state tuition is far less important to institutional funding than it is at Life Pacific or Providence Christian.

The additional tuition of the Broncos’ 10 athletic teams has far less effect on their budget than private institutions. But along with the rest of the state-funded colleges in the conference, the Broncos spend money on athletics.

“The value overall is still has a big impact in terms of strengthening or weakening the university image,” said Ivan Alber,Cal Poly Pomona’s Assistant Athletics Director. “At Division II, I still think that athletics can slide the university’s image along the scale in either direction in terms of branding, recognition and notoriety.”

He also sees it as a benefit to the student-athletes themselves.

“They are not only achieving a bit more academic success and higher GPA than the general student body, but also their time management and leadership skills,” Abler said.

Another unique institution, Academy of Art University, has their own reasons for starting an athletic program in 2008. The university is a for-profit art and design institution in downtown San Francisco. They lack all of the traditional athletic facilities and instead rent different locations around the city for their programs.

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A campus map showcasing the unusualness of Academy of Art’s campus.

“We created a niche for art and athletics to exist simultaneously as an opportunity for students after high school,” Academy of Art’s Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Rob Garcia said.

He also added that the athletic program helps attract international athletes to the university.

Despite the money pits that athletics have become at the Divison I levels, where hundreds of schools take huge subsidies in hopes that they will one day join the ranks of the few who turn a profit, lower-level schools still get value out of their athletic programs.

California Drought: what is currently happening?

The state of California has been in a serious drought the past three years; 2012 to 2015 were the driest consecutive years according to the California Department of Water Resources. California has had serious droughts in the past, but in 2007 to 2009 a statewide proclamation of emergency was put into effect. This was the first time there was a state of emergency proclaimed, and the second time was between 2012-2015.

The most recent drought is also unique because it has been the driest consecutive period of time in the state of California, and new high climate records have been set in this time. The years 2014 and 2015 were the warmest and second warmest years in 121 years of climate records, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

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Photo Courtesy: Golden Gate Weather Services

Is the drought over?

Since the drought has continued on for a few years, people are asking, “When will the drought be over and how will we know it is over?”

There has been rain recently, but according to the California Nevada River Forcast Center by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Los Angeles’ rainfall has been 6.83 inches from October 1, 2015 to April 27, 2016. The normal amount of rainfall for this time of year should be 14.22 inches. The normal amount of rainfall is an average from 1981 to 2010 recordings.

According to a study by NASA, California has a a 20 inch debt of rain. This debt of rain comes from the state’s 13 inch deficit between 2012 and 2014, and the 7 inch deficit from the 2014 to 2015 wet season. This debt is close to the average amount of rainfall the state usually receives in a year.

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California January 2013 compared to January 2014 Photo Courtesy: NASA

“Drought has happened here before. It will happen again, and some research groups have presented evidence it will happen more frequently as the planet warms,” head of the NASA study, Andrey Savtchenko said in a NASA press release, “But, even if the climate doesn’t change, are our demands for fresh water sustainable?”

Since the 1980’s, the state of California has grown in agriculture, population, and industry, thus creating a higher demand for water.

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Average Precipitation, September 2011 through September 2014 Photo Courtesy: California Department of Water Resources

El Niño

State Climatologist Michael Anderson said in a press release from the State of California, “California cannot count on potential El Niño conditions to halt or reverse drought conditions.  Historical weather data shows us that at best, there is a 50/50 chance of having a wetter winter. Unfortunately, due to shifting climate patterns, we cannot even be that sure.”

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Drought Conditions in December 2014 Photo Courtesy: Climate.gov

 

This quote shows that one cannot count on El Niño to end the drought.

El Niño is the third strongest in the past 65 years for the months of May and June, according to NASA.

According to NASA, “El Niño contributes only six percent to California’s precipitation variability and is one factor among other, more random effects that influence how much rainfall the state receives. While it’s more likely El Niño increases precipitation in California, it’s still possible it will have no, or even a drying, effect.”

How will we know the drought it over?

Even though 2016 has been the wettest year since the drought began in 2012, a few months of rain cannot make up for years of a drought.

The California Department of Water Resources stated, “Ending a drought means having enough precipitation and runoff throughout the state to mitigate the impacts we’ve experienced.”

It may take some time to reach this point.

2016 Drought Contingency Plan

The Drought Contingency Plan for this year will be placed in effect from February 2016 to November 2016, assuming the dry conditions will still persist in this time.

Forcasts for 2016 appear to be wetter than average conditions, but this plan is still being placed in effect if these conditions do not continue.

According to the Central Valley Project and State Water Project 2016 Drought Contingency Plan, “If 2016 precipitation results in another dry year, the State and Federal Agencies will need to make difficult decisions to balance reservoir storage to meet water supply needs, such as essential health and safety needs for urban water users, cold water and appropriate flows for fish, and adequate water quality in the Delta.”

The goals of this plan are to ensure human health and safety needs for fresh water, and to “Manage the intrusion of salt water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) through operations of the CVP (Central Valley Project) and SWP (State Water Project)” according to The Drought Contingency Plan.

This plan is connecting with the December 15, 2015 State Water Board Order.

These plans focus on the changed requirements of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project to meet water quality in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta).

Current State

According to a press release by the California Water Boards, “Californians came just shy of meeting Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s 25 percent water conservation mandate for the nine months since mandatory urban conservation began.”

California has saved 23.9 percent of water from June 2015 to February 2016 compared to these same months in 2013.

“Twenty-four percent savings shows enormous effort and a recognition that everyone’s effort matters,Californians rose to the occasion, reducing irrigation, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and saving our precious water resources in all sorts of ways.” said State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus in the same California Water Boards press release.

There has been almost 1.19 million acre-feet of water conserved from June 2015 through February 2016. California has reached 96 percent of the savings goal of 1.24 million acre-feet of water, according to the California Water Boards.

The conservation rate statewide dropped from 17.1 percent in January to 12 percent in February. This could be because February 2016 was one of the driest and warmest Februaries since the drought started years before.

Typically people use less water in the winter because they are not using as much water for plants outdoors, so there is more water to conserve.

“We are in better shape than last year, but are still below average in most of California. We need to keep up our efforts to conserve the water we’ve gotten. We can better tune up and adjust our emergency rules once we see our final rain and snowpack tallies in the next few weeks,” said Chair Marcus in the press release.

The State Water Board’s Office of Enforcement has worked with water suppliers that have not met their conservation standards.

The board has issued: 98 warning letters,  118 notices of violation,  12 conservation orders,  Four Administrative Civil Liability Complaints and seven alternative compliance order, all since June 2015, according to the California Water Board report.

The state is anticipating conserving more water in the future to help deal with the issue of the drought. There was an extended emergency regulation that will be in effect until October 2016, and potentially revised then.

The state continues to conserve high amounts of water as they have since June 2015.

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California Water Conservation Photo Courtesy: California Water Boards