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Lights, cameras, action at Richmond High

on October 29, 2009

Concerned parents, teachers and community organizers at Richmond High School have demanded the school board install new security cameras, better lighting on campus and create a comprehensive district safety plan.

“We’re doing all of those things, and we want to do more,” West Contra Costa Unified School District board member Charles Ramsey said during an often heated public meeting Wednesday night of the district’s safety subcommittee. “People have to understand we are trying to do everything we can. This school has a lot of needs.”

But many of those who attended the board’s safety subcommittee meeting, made unusually popular after Saturday’s rape of a 15-year-old female student, argued that the district has long neglected their requests.

“We were laughed at when we said we needed 13 security guards. We were laughed at when we said we needed $80,000 of security cameras,” teacher Jessica Price said as she struggled to keep her voice steady. “They would have been right there, where my student was …”

Price was referring to the victim, who was raped, robbed and beaten Saturday night on campus, according to police. Four of the five arrested suspects were arraigned today.

Despite plans in place for 120 new cameras, Price said she felt like the project has been road-blocked. Other speakers echoed similar frustrations, sometimes yelling out from their school auditorium seats.

When responding, Ramsey at times appeared defensive, once pushing his microphone to the side to avoid finishing his sentence.

Much of Wednesday night’s discussion focused on the amount of time it takes to get things done, or get them done right.

“We already have cameras – they don’t work,” Ramsey said. “It didn’t work because of improper planning.”

Michael Wasilchin, who represents the union for the district’s school site supervisors, said he has been asking for a comprehensive safety plan for almost four years. He said he thinks the plan should designate a chain of command during emergencies and training for all levels of staff, including maintenance workers who are not required to attend safety drill meetings.

Wasilchin said one major safety issue is that the Richmond High site supervisors haven’t had their required three days of training this school year. They completed half of the training last year.

“The district has always had a spotty record about that,” he said.

Site supervisors, district-hired staff who take care of campus security, can provide the best security at school events because they know the campus and are able to identify people who do not belong, Wasilchin said. At the time of the rape, he said only one site supervisor was on duty. To have four more would have cost about $250, he said.

Recommending a safety plan was one of several suggestions given at the meeting.

Many of the suggestions require a lengthy review process and more funding, according to district officials. But at least one idea is funded by taxpayers and free for schools – a rape crisis and prevention service.

“We have asked, we have begged, and we have all but demanded to come on this campus,” said Rhonda James, executive director of Community Violence Solutions.

Several other people approached the board members with ideas, some with new recommendations and some who had offered their services before.

A representative from the North and East Patrol Group offered to bring teams of adults to the neighborhood to walk the streets, patrol school events and get to know the area. A member of the Bay Area Peacekeepers offered similar help.  The Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council said its members are also available. And the safety chair at Pinole Valley High School, Tammy Campbell, suggested Richmond High incorporate a class on respect and values into the curriculum.

Campbell, like others who spoke, emphasized the need to work on personal values. She said that at Pinole Valley High, where there are no fences, safety programs were scrapped to fund the now-defunct camera system at Richmond High.

After hearing from a parent concerned about disparaging remarks being made about the rape victim on campus, Ramsey and board member Tony Thurmond called on everyone in the room to report and punish any student who makes a derogatory comment about the girl.

Committee members also voted to put several of the night’s suggested items on the agenda for the Wednesday, Nov. 4 school board meeting at 6:30 p.m., including one to hurry the review process and get emergency money for safety equipment upgrades.

Associate Superintendent Wendell Greer said the district is reviewing its processes and procedures, especially regarding security policies. The goal, he said, is to develop a long-term solution.

“Clearly, we have a lot of work to do,” Thurmond said.

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  1. […] School Cameras | People attending a school safety meeting at Richmond High complained about security deficiencies around campus after the gang rape of a 15-year-old outside the school’s homecoming dance last […]

  2. Marty Price on October 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    The district and the administrators are all at fault. I am a retired adminstrator from nearby Oakland. We have many of the same social problems that Richmond has. We had on average of 5 dances a year at the school I worked in. We not only would not have unlighted areas, we rented spot lights to go with our filed lights. Every 20 minutes an administrator and an Oakland police officer would patrol the perimeter of the campus. There are always miscreants trying to sneak in or look for trouble. They would run as son as they spotted us. The idea that four cops were inside the dance, that campus security was let go because of overtime concerns is an anathema. The money you collect from the students pays for this. If you do not sell enough tickets you do not have the dance. Common sense folks.
    My heart goes out to this young lady, and the hundreds of students at this school who have been soiled by this act. They endure enough in regard to their community, and now suffer because the adults working in the institutions designed to protect them were asleep at the wheel. That said I would hope the DA would extend meercy to these depraved young men and offer the possiblity of parole at some time in their futures. This was a heinous act, but that does not mean kids do not change over time. Our society is to quick to execute and sentence kids to life. We already do that by putting them in underfunded institutions without support services as it is.

  3. Eugene Stokes on October 30, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Hello my name is Eugene Stokes, owner and operator of Total Access Lock Inc. I am responding to the recent tragedy at Richmond High School in Richmond, California. I am a parent and a grandparent, and a mentor of many young people. We here at Total Access Lock Inc. would like to offer our services of free labor to inspect, repair, or replace any and all security cameras on the School Premises, for the safety of the students. I would be able to do an immediate inspection as early as this Saturday, if you would like.

    • Alexa Vaughn on October 31, 2009 at 11:32 am

      Hi, Eugene. That’s a kind offer you should make to the school district board members, who are having a meeting Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. They are actually looking at the bids for the new camera system that night.

  4. LIz Wolf-Spada on October 31, 2009 at 9:11 am

    This girl’s family needs a good lawyer. When the district gets sued with a million dollar personal injury and negligence claim they will start putting in the money they need to protect these kids.

  5. Patricia Evans on October 31, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    It is time we educated our young to know why some males despise, denigrate even try to destroy all qualities ascribed to the feminine and even those who symbolize the feminine— a 15 year old girl.

    This hate crime is motivated by two things: 1) the perps disconnection from, and disparagement of, their emotional, intuitive, receptive, selves and consequently their desire to attack “it” and, 2) because of their disconnection, they bond (connect) with others against some one, so they feel connected again. i would bet that none of the perps had a kind nurturing father. Rather they had a father and a culture that disconnected them. See verbalabuse,com for more information.

  6. Eugene Stokes on November 3, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Hello to you all the comments that I’ve read that were posted very good comments through this problem should have been resolved sometime ago speaking on the lighting cameras and fencing but we all have our faults regarding safety and security. A few days ago I sent an e-mail out to some administrators of the school. And I was told someone would contact me. I’ve not received e-mail, nor have I received received a phone call. As I was told I would, I’m just reaching out now if someone can enlighten me on where I might be able to put my bid in for material cost. I would greatly appreciate it. My personal thought is that they need 120 cameras from my understanding that must be a very large campus. I have not had the opportunity to visit the school yet, but I think I will take a ride over this evening and take a look at the campus IP cameras. I think will work just fine for a large campus. Just a thought. Thanks

  7. Lights, cameras, action at Richmond High « on November 9, 2009 at 11:06 am

    […] here to read more on […]

  8. Justice.Period on November 24, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    The West Contra Costa Unified School District should be sued for no less then 100 million dollars by the parents and victim for the atrocities she suffered on SCHOOL PROPERTY. Richmond High School was 100% negligent for not monitoring “school” property (the whole property) at all times when there was a “school activity” going on. The high school saying they are not responsible once students leave the dance… give me a break, she was still on the school’s property which should be secured and monitored at all times. –An official with the school district defended school security, saying that when the students leave the dance, “we don’t take them home.”–THE CRIME WAS COMMITTED ON “SCHOOL PROPERTY”…YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY. The school officials and “security specialists” who were “in charge” that evening should all be fired and have any teaching certifications revoked. If those security specialists had any credentials or certifications they should be revoked as well. There is NO EXCUSE for such a horrendous crime happening on school property… school officials and the security specialists didn’t even try or attempt to monitor what they could, to secure the school property that they were/are responsible for. District personnel involved with the “stalled” purchase of new equipment should be fired, sued for negligence. I’m so glad these district personnel have nice safe office jobs, while the students they are paid and supposed to protect get gang raped, beaten, degraded to no end. Disgraceful. They allowed this to happen. They did nothing to secure the campus.

  9. […] demanded access to Richmond High at a safety meeting that followed the attack, to offer training that gives […]

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