Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 – 3:58 PM
By Courier staff
As law enforcement nationwide attempts to implement strategies in the face of an increase in on-campus gun violence in American schools, the Beverly Hills Police Department continues to be proactive in its efforts to keep Beverly Hills schools safe.
The newly implemented “Adopt-a-School Program,” which launched last month, already increased patrols around the Beverly Hills Unified School District’s five campuses, in addition to stationing a School Resource Officer (SRO) at each of the K-8 schools and two at the high school. All campuses throughout the district are now closed with a single point of entry during the school day. Further, all schools now share two BHPD detectives who specialize in juvenile issues.
Spagnoli has repeatedly said that the current program now in place is the best possible option and relies on the latest advances in policing.
Plans, as previously reported in the Courier, are also in the works to add CCTV cameras throughout the district which will further increase BHPD’s capability to efficiently police the school district. Additional measures to augment safety include plans to hold Town Hall meetings, create an anonymous text platform, and strengthen safety alerts, to name a few. The majority of these programs and strategies are being fully funded and carried out by the City of Beverly Hills, leaving many in the community to wonder whether or not the Board of Education has ever understood or fulfilled its security and control responsibilities.
In addition to efforts from the BHPD, last month BHUSD administrator Chris Hertz was named Director of School Safety, a newly created position. Already he has created two different security councils.
Former Mayor Lili Bosse previously extolled Spagnoli’s safety plans, stating: “What she is offering is … better police protection seven days a week for 24 hours a day. I don’t know why anybody feels that they know better than our Chief of Police and better than our police department.”
As evidenced by the failure of the armed SRO to step in and attempt to slow down or stop troubled student Nikolas Cruz’s on-campus massacre during February’s tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida; having armed police itself is not a guaranteed foolproof deterrent.
What is often the missing link in many of these cases of school violence, is mental health. The Beverly Hills police and BHUSD are not overlooking the crucial role that mental illness has played in many of these gun violence incidents.
Beverly Hills’ own Maple Counseling Center and Beverly Hills High School’s Norman Aid Student Support Center work directly with students to address the mental issues among the high school’s student body.
“We provide ongoing mental health support to all the schools,” said Maple Counseling Center CEO Marcy Kaplan. “We see everything from general anxiety, to family conflict, to academic challenges, family expectations, substance abuse and social media impacts.”
Kaplan added: “If it’s an especially volatile situation, we will alert school authorities.”
The Maple Counseling Center’s efforts work hand-in-hand with the BHHS’ NormanAid Support Center in an effort to cover the entire student body’s varied mental health needs.
Ali Norman-Franks, the NormanAid Student Support Center’s Intervention Counselor, said her program sees about 80 students throughout the week. Many students will come to the program on their own, while others are referred through teachers, parents or friends.
“We provide conflict resolution and crisis management. Students can come for any reason, whether it’s short-term counseling, anxiety about a test, or more serious issues,” Franks said. “It’s about erasing the stigma and letting our students know it’s okay to ask for help.”
Franks’ NormanAid program has instituted Normanonymous, which is an anonymous contact form where students, family or community members can alert the school about students on campus who they feel are a mental health risk.
“We try to provide a lot of education to our students about listening to people and paying attention to how they act and what they say,” Franks said. “If you’re concerned about something you see or hear, speak up and tell us.”
Franks will often refer students to UCLA, Didi Hirscsh or the Edelman Westside Mental Health Center if she believes a student needs assistance beyond what her department can provide. All throughout these processes, Franks said the Beverly Hills police stay very well involved.
“We have a very close relationship with the Beverly Hills police,” Franks said. “We are always in contact them if we have concerns about a student. If it reaches a critical point, where safety issues are involved, we know we can reach out to the BHPD.”