Readers comments 6-18-21
Segregation vs. Inclusion
On Tuesday, city council may approve the Village South Specific Plan for up to 1,000 residential units (plus a hotel and other businesses), and our city’s overall plan for housing (the Housing Element of our General Plan) is being updated. Both are on the city website for comment. The information and comments below relate to both of them.
According to the latest available data, at Vista del Valle Elementary School 69% of the students are poor enough to be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. In our other elementary schools the percentages are: Mountain View 45%, Oakmont 42%, Sumner 41%, Condit 25%, Sycamore 22% and Chaparral 20%. Economic segregation exists in Claremont, and since people of color are generally poorer than whites according to data from many sources, this results in de facto racial segregation. Our planning decisions regarding the placement of low-income housing should reduce, not increase, segregation.
Our General Plan contains “Policy 8-3.11 Encourage affordable housing to be distributed throughout the city to create economically diverse neighborhoods and to minimize concentrated impacts on the schools in areas of the city with existing affordable housing.” That’s a wise policy.
We should not over-emphasize proximity to public transit. The working-age low-income residents of Courier Place are within a short walk of the buses on First Street and are a stone’s throw from the train station. Yet they drive to work. Public transit either doesn’t go to their jobs or takes too long to get there. In addition, local trips require a car, because the bus lines are limited in scope and don’t run often enough outside of rush hour. So despite the cost, a car is desirable and even necessary. Uber, Lyft and Dial-A-Ride would cost a lot too, if one had to use them frequently. And, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, using these ride-hailing services produces far more exhaust emissions than using one’s own car, because of the extra miles driven before and after taking the passenger to his/her destination. This undermines our need to avoid contributing to global climate change, local air pollution and traffic congestion. Our area isn’t transit-rich enough for people to live here without using cars.
It will be wise of our city government to consider all relevant information when choosing the locations of our affordable housing. Otherwise, we’ll create unintended consequences, as many cities did when they built housing developments which segregated their low-income residents in a limited area. In May 2003 our League of Women Voters published its study, “Affordable Housing in Claremont and Other Nearby Communities,” 49 pages in length plus 38 pages of exhibits. It reported that its members, at the study’s conclusion, expressed “Clear consensus to distribute affordable housing throughout the city” (page 49).
Claremont’s SRO on-campus officer
As a teacher and former school administrator (dean, vice principal, and principal), the best solution that I’ve seen for students, schools, and the community was a “student and the law” class offered as an elective to middle school students. Students learned the ins and outs of policing, law, and the scope of responsibility of good citizenship at an age when they were more impressionable.
Humanizing law enforcement and explaining the rationale behind laws did wonders toward building respect toward rules, laws, and, most importantly, each other which resulted in a reduction of on/off campus incidents.
When everybody is on the same page, societies tend to run smoother.
Salary for the position was shared by the police department and school district. Since the class didn’t have to be offered the entire day, the course could be offered as needed to control class size overflow as well as leave time for the officer to perform regular duties. Nowadays with school districts pushing the myth of “everyone needs college,” there is precious little time for a high school to incorporate the “student and the law” kind of program.
Having an SRO on a high school campus is nice for an administrator to get an immediate opinion on whether an offense is actionable and “worth it” to press charges (in terms of extinguishing certain behaviors). But in the long run, campus security is actually better suited for 95% of misbehavior and stopping problems before they happen.
Campus security though tends to be more costly for the school district.
If students are not getting “student and the law” early, then having an SRO on a high school campus is a great way to dispassionately calm things down.
People “feeling” that more citations are issued with an SRO on campus don’t understand the dynamic that goes on between administrators, police, and evidence. Everyone involved does everything possible to keep a kid in school until they are left with no choice but to remove them.
Is it possible to issue more citations? Sure. Practical? No.
Will an SRO modify student behaviors overall? Maybe.
But due to the current political climate, most offenses are being legally downgraded in terms of punishment so schools have to scramble to figure out how to protect the majority of students from the predators, bullies, and misfits that all societies have.
As parents and educators, we know that most student understanding of allowable behavior(s) in society comes from what they see/hear in movies, rap videos, news, school hallways, or an individual explanation twisted by an agenda or bias. Couple this unfortunate reality with a developing ability to analyze and a willingness to see what they can get away with, students absolutely need more information for a better world view.
Of course more civics education and critical analysis won’t fit well with the divisive hyperbole of activists like Marigiotta and Winnick, but it will go a long way towards good citizenship.
Police commission train wreck
I was disturbed at the four-and-a-half hour police commission meeting last week, as I think any reasonable person watching it would also be.
The bulk of the discussion was over a set of recommendations submitted by an ad hoc committee of the commission established last fall regarding the school resource officer. These recommendations—too many to repeat here—were very thinly supported. To the extent support was even offered it was with cherry-picked quotes from papers based on national studies (perhaps—it’s never really clear) that were not even cited in a way that they could be checked for context. The extent to which these national studies would be distinguished from Claremont or would model Claremont was not addressed. Ad hoc committee conclusions were stated as fact, and when information contrary to the committee’s world view was even mentioned, it was with a diminuendo meant to tell the reader to discount it. In fact, during the discussion, the committee tried to distance itself from its own survey that showed broad community support for the SRO—saying it was not a “survey” when in fact the questions sent out and the analysis provided a few months ago to the commission had the word “survey” all over them.
My impression was, in short, that the three ad hoc committee members, Mohamed, Talbott, and Margiotta, had an opinion going in, had an agenda, and did not do a very good job on the report or even bother to marshal coherent facts to support their recommendations.
When commissioner Mason offered a statistical analysis of some of the raw data from Claremont schools that showed from elementary sampling theory that all of the supposed racial and ethnic disparities in Claremont proffered by the ad hoc committee evaporated into statistical insignificance at any actionable confidence level, the response of one ad hoc committee member, commissioner Margiotta, was telling.
Rather than engage on the substance, commissioner Margiotta attacked commissioner Mason and the other commissioners who were persuaded by his analysis. She played the racism card and denounced them for being white and for opposing a credentialed ad hoc committee member who is Black. She recognized herself that this was a personal attack on her fellow commissioners, contrary to the behavior norms for commissioners, but was unapologetic. In this outburst she chose to engage with a temper tantrum rather than engage in civil discourse. In behaving this way, she has disqualified herself, I believe, from serving on the police commission, and it’s hard to see how she is even qualified to advise non-profits and businesses to manage and work for change, which seems to be her day job.
The school district and the city should expect better from the commission and commissioners it tasks to make recommendations on its policies.
Ludd A. Trozpek
Opinion Piece on SRO Officer
We are very concerned that the public was seriously misled by the statements reported in both the article on the latest police commission meeting and the accompanying opinion piece by a leader of Claremont Change last week. The article on the school resource officer discussion was accurate on what was said in the accusatory meeting, but the falsehoods stated need to be publicly corrected.
There has been a substantial amount of positive information that has been gathered during nine months of police and CUSD school staff reports to the police commission. We need to share some of it in this brief format.
First, during her six years of service as a school resource officer, there has never been a complaint filed against Jennifer Ganino, and there has never been any use of force. Students who spoke to the police commission repeatedly said that their opposition to her position is “systemic” and not personal.
Next, we need to show how misleading the repeated statement is: “Data reveal that the SRO disproportionately cites and arrests Black and brown students as compared to their percentage of the student body.” The figure referred to most often by these critics is that Black students make up 4.4% of the high school student body, and their percentage of arrests was 11.4% during the recent four years. Researching the detail, Chief Vander Veen reported on February 4 and March 4, 2021 that over the four-year period evaluated, there were a total of five arrests of Black students. Four of those arrests of Black students were the result of parents wanting prosecution, and in one case the parent brought their student victim to the police station. Those arrests were mandated by law. She stated that even if the SRO position had not existed, those four arrests would have occurred. Using these arrests to vilify the SRO position is wrong. There was only one other arrest of a Black CUSD student. The arrest of only one Black student based on investigation by the SRO, compared to 44 total arrests in four years, is only 2.3%. It is not over-representation.
Further, when a commissioner who had not been on the SRO Ad Hoc Committee used statistical analysis on the numbers for arrests and citations, he reported finding no statistically significant differences between actual numbers and the percentage of students by race. The member on the ad hoc committee who is an expert in statistical analysis immediately confirmed that statement, showing that he had already run the same tests and come to the same conclusion. The ad hoc committee report should have contained that information.
The ad hoc committee report also does not mention the PowerPoint presentations on December 17, 2020 by many of our school staff, including the principals of Claremont High School, San Antonio High School and El Roble, plus the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services and the Coordinator of Mental Health Services. She has five licensed therapists and 15 masters level student interns. All of these school leaders want to keep the SRO position, and described how the SRO performs tasks that their mental health counselors cannot. Not only the administration, but also 86% of the 117-school staff who responded to a citywide survey stated that they were in favor of retaining this SRO position. That is overwhelming support from the professionals who are on the front line of our schools and who see the SRO in action.
Much of the public testimony by students spoke to the need for more mental health support. Since students did not physically attend schools this year, how is it possible that this year’s mental health tragedies can be traced to an SRO being visible at school? However, all commissioners listened to the students’ pleas and voted to call for more mental health support. Both the schools and the city are receiving special funds to overcome the impact of COVID. Some of these funds could be used to obtain Tri-City or additional CUSD mental health services. The belief by some students that only by eliminating the SRO can they get more mental health support is not correct.
The fact that officers in this type of position in other parts of the country have abused their power does not convict our SRO officer of wrong-doing. Jennifer Ganino’s performance deserves praise after this in-depth investigation. Since there is no data that our SRO officer is abusing Black and brown students, the majority of our police commissioners were correct in agreeing to continue discussions on how to improve the SRO assignment, but not voting to abolish it.
Barbara Musselman, Bill Buehler, Deborah Robinson, Donna Lowe, Helaine Goldwater, Jim Keith, Joyce Sauter, Matt Magilke, Paul Cooper, Paul Wheeler
In Defense of Mick Rhodes
In a shoot-the-messenger classic, a number of letters in the June 11th COURIER accuse writer Mick Rhodes (the H.L.Mencken of Police Blotterdom) of being cold and insensitive for injecting a level of humor in his roundups of Claremont policing activities, particularly regarding one rather “prolific” story of our infraction-citation-release-repeat judicial revolving door. The message, (despite his humor) sadly inherent in his weekly roundups, is that we as a society have largely failed to stop this cycle and thus we turn a blind eye to the obvious recidivism rate and the pain it causes family, friends, victims, and also those committing those crimes. The letters directed against Mick use a perps-are-
people-too shibboleth to deflect taking some responsibility for solving this appalling situation and don’t address the elephant in the room: The possibility that it could be your loved one who might be hurt next (or hurt again) by that revolving door. Maybe it’s time to look harder for solutions rather than shooting the messenger.