Educating ourselves: recap of The Zephyr’s Student Safety Forum


On Wednesday, March 14, the West High Journalism class opened its classroom doors during first lunch and fourth period to host a Student Safety Forum in hopes of addressing student concerns and continuing the conversation that swept the nation following the tragic shooting that killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. As students began protesting insufficient safety measures and discussing preventions to school shootings, political leaders and other adults have attempted to halt these protests. Two days prior, Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) Board Member Dan Arriola started the first Student Town Hall for numerous students in the district to calmly explain and share opinions and solutions. Throughout this event, students were comfortable in knowing that their voices matter.

In addition to Arriola, the West High journalism forum consisted of Board Members Walter Gouveia and Jill Costa, Board President Greg Silva, Superintendent Brian Stephens, Ed.D., Director of Student Services Troy Brown, Principal Zachary Boswell, Ed.D., West High Student Resource Officer Graham Hawkinson, Tracy City Council Member Rhodesia Ransom and Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas. Other members included Zenet Negron, a representative for Assembly Member Susan Talamantes-Eggman, and Peter Butler, a representative for California Congressman Jeff Denham. Additionally, respected community member and West High parent Mike Sandhu was present.

The forum began with a presentation by Sociology student Simran Sandhu. Sandhu reported interesting findings from her class’s survey of West High student opinions regarding our own school’s campus safety. The survey brought up ideas such as introducing bulletproof windows and doors and keeping doors locked at all times, both of which were met with strong approval. One concept that was met with significant disapproval was arming staff members with guns. Following the presentation, students asked the guests questions ranging from policies to personal opinions.

Each leader listened closely to the students’ concerns and individually responded to each question. They ensured that the students felt heard by asserting how significant our voices are to our society. Members of the panel came to a unanimous agreement that student safety was a number one concern of theirs. One particular moment that captured attention was every students’ hand raised when asked if they haven’t had an active shooter or lockdown drill during their time at West. Silva expressed his concern, calling the matter “rather alarming.” He proceeded to inform students that the board has discussed the lack of drills and will be checking to make sure the needed amount of drills is held. Dr. Boswell added that West High has its next lockdown drill planned for the near future.

Though a concern of students and school districts, gun safety has been discussed in our state government as well. When it comes to new legislation in California regarding the issue of safety, Negron stated that about six bills have been proposed and will be voted on soon. Butler added that “Congressman Denham will definitely listen to the concerns of the [state] district.” On a more local level, plans concerning safety in downtown Tracy have been reviewed by our City Council. Neighborhoods around West High could benefit from more security as well, not just after school but following after school activities. Vargas stressed to students that their young voices are not only valued, but a priority of the city, “I hear you. We hear you.” Even Mr. Sandhu said Tracy kids would be able to make a meeting with him in under 24 hours, whereas he’d put politicians on hold. Officer Hawkinson chimed in that his doors are open to students, even just to vent about a bad day.

Recently, students had two opportunities to voice their opinions about concerns they had on campus. The Student Town Hall and the journalism Student Safety Forum were only two days apart and could be perceived as ideal occasions to make a change. If anyone feels strongly about the state of schools, they should involve themselves to become a part of the solution. One should not complain about school conditions if they do not take the opportunities that are provided.

Students should also be aware that the TUSD board meetings take place the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. If the subject of matter pertains more to the city council, the city council meeting is the first and third Tuesday of every month. Anyone is welcome at these meetings and they serve as the perfect opportunity to speak with those in charge of making decisions for our community. We often think no one is listening to us, but how can they if we never try to reach out either?

On many occasions, those behind the gruesome acts we see in the news are individuals who are bullied, labeled as “weird” or seen as outcasts. It is not difficult to respect those around you; there is no room for bullying in any situation. Being kind to one another does no harm and standing up for a victim of bullying can be the difference between life and death in extreme instances. At lunch, sit with a student who is lonely, invite them to your table and make conversation. Random acts of kindness can go a long way; you never know the struggles someone is hiding or facing outside of school.

When it comes to student safety, we can point hands and blame left and right when tragedies occur, but it may be more effective to use that anger and passion to stop such a misfortune from taking place once again. It is understandable that leaders and those in higher powers are expected to fix the issues that arise in the gates of our school campuses; however, students have their own responsibilities as well. We, the students, possess the capability to promote change by exercising our voices and executing simple actions which can result in tremendous outcomes.