Officials meet with school stakeholders to discuss ‘safety’

The exterior of the Guam Department of Education in Tiyan Barrigada in Tiyan, Barrigada. PNC file photo

Guam – Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio talked about school safety matters with stakeholders during a presentation Monday night at Liguan Elementary School. 

“For the most part, we have very very safe schools. But there’s a lot we need to improve,” Tenorio said.

Leon Guerrero and Tenorio visited Liguan as part of the newly-launched School Safety Partnership Program. The purpose of the program is to gather feedback from schools from the North, South, and central parts of the island to discuss changes that would make local schools safer.

The School Safety Partnership Program is a collaborative effort between GovGuam agencies, Guam Police Department, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, Department of Public Works, and Guam Homeland Security.

Tenorio, in an interview on K57’s Mornings with Patti, said the program has  three tiers.

“There’s a three-tier focus for this phase of our partnership with GDOE on school security. The first tier is behavioral health,” he said.

“You need to be able to arm the front line with some mental health jiu-jitsu. Give them the training that is available for them to understand what’s going on,” Tenorio said, adding, “Also making sure that there is no explicit or implicit bias against certain groups of students, which I think is happening in the minority communities.”

In line with this tier, Tenorio said that the program will look into the number of cases concerning disciplinary action and making sure there are no biases being made towards students who are members of minority communities.

Alternative dispute resolutions for when there are conflicts between students will also be implemented to prevent school violence.

The program’s second tier involves working with law enforcement entities to improve responsiveness. This would also entail partnering with several neighborhood watch groups to adopt schools in their area and ensure that places such as bus stops remain safe for students to commune.

As for the program’s third tier, school facilities would be assessed for any needed improvements.

“And of course, having these closed-circuit cameras. I mean, technology is getting cheaper. And getting the little things that we can do…and also, making sure that there’s adequate fencing going around those schools. There’s good procedures for the school community and I know the high schools are doing this, and middle schools, and elementary schools – they’re monitoring who’s actually coming into the school,” Tenorio said.

The program also covered other topics such as the installation of street lights to improve visibility, alternative transportation methods, and perimeter fencing.

Lack of involvement

But according to Tenorio, one of the larger areas he would like to improve upon concerns the lack of involvement from parents and guardians within the public school system.

“There are some parents that are engaged and some communities do better than most. But especially in the high schools, the amount of parents that get involved in the needs of schools is very very small,” he said, adding, “And for the parents that are involved, they’re very vocal. We do appreciate them, but hopefully, they can come out into the fold as well.”

While this is quite the effort for a community that consists of thousands of students and faculty, Tenorio is optimistic about the changes the program will bring.

“There’s a big school system, but there are little things we wanna do in the big picture, in the long term, to focus on the outcome. The outcome, again, is safe schools for the students, and safe schools for the teachers, and everybody that’s worked there,”Tenorio said.