On August 8, 2017, less than a week before the start of the new school year, the Santa Ana Unified School District ordered 25 of the 38 District Security Officers (DSOs) to move from their middle schools and high schools to other sites.
The relocation notice came without explanation or a robust plan and stipulated a two-week deadline: August 23, 2017.
As a member of the Santa Ana Board of Education, I am profoundly troubled by the hastiness of this decision.
Although I typically leave administrative matters to the Superintendent, I feel compelled to make a public statement because the haphazard relocation of DSOs jeopardizes student safety.
Nothing is more important to me than student safety and DSOs are central to campus safety.
The potentially negative impact of plucking DSOs from their schools and moving them elsewhere is substantial. For example:
Last semester, a DSO acted promptly to keep a student alive until medical support came. He was able to do so because he had very specific knowledge about the student’s medical condition.
This summer, another DSO was able to quickly locate and shut down a gas line before it affected more students in the school.
DSOs have also built a rich web of caring relationships with students at their individual schools, as evidenced by the deluge of emails from current and former students expressing how meaningful DSOs have been in their lives.
In maintaining our campuses safe, DSOs not only reduce suspensions and expulsions; they also boost attendance and graduation rates.
Let me be clear. I am not arguing that DSOs should stay in the same school forever. Nor am I disputing the District’s authority to rotate DSOs to different campuses. There is some merit to rotating DSOs in some fashion.
However, the real issue is to ensure that DSO relocations are done in a responsible manner, allowing time for DSOs to transfer student-specific knowledge to other DSOs and to enable the new DSOs to build trusting relationships with students.
It simply takes more than two weeks to achieve these objectives meaningfully, particularly when the magnitude of the relocation is staggering: nearly 70 percent of the DSOs are being moved across all middle schools and high schools. (Nobody I have spoken can remember a staff relocation of this scale in the last 30 years.)
Indeed, I fail to see why these relocations must all happen by next Wednesday, August 23. There is no crisis, like an out-of-control fire, forcing us to do all this in two weeks.
In closing, I am calling upon the District to freeze this relocation process and instead to develop a robust transition plan. DSOs should be included in providing ideas, while the District retains the power to make final decisions.
I hope that over the next couple of days, the District and California Schools Employees Association (CSEA) —the union representing DSOs—will both put student safety first and come to an agreement to extend the deadline and to include DSOs in the planning.
Student safety demands deliberate, inclusive, and thoughtful actions.
Rigo Rodríguez is a Governing Board Member for the Santa Ana Unified School District.
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