Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

During this Tuesday’s Santa Barbara Unified school board meeting, several community members joined Sheriff Bill Brown in speaking out against the board’s unanimous decision at its last meeting not to renew its contract with the school resource deputy at San Marcos High School, despite district staff’s recommendation to do so. The critics claimed the district met with activist groups and came to the decision without properly informing the public or taking proper consideration for the safety of students and faculty. 

Sheriff Brown said he was disappointed by the decision not to renew and touted the value of having an officer on campus not only for students, but for parents and staff as well. The purpose of a school resource deputy (SRD) is to build relationships, Brown said. “SRDs effectively defuse situations ranging from fights, threats, self-harm, and drug abuse on campus,” he said. “Their primary role is to establish good relationships with students and faculty, and utilize those relationships to avert trouble before it happens.”

The role of a resource deputy is to provide support and guidance where necessary, Brown said, and he went on to commend the work of George Hedricks, a resource deputy at Dos Pueblos High School. “During the 10 years the school resource deputy George Hedricks has been assigned to Dos Pueblos High School, he has not felt the need to book a single student into Juvenile Hall,” Brown said.

This board’s decision not to renew the position at San Marcos High came following several meetings with local student and activist groups, including the student group Cops off Campus! S.B. The group has amassed a following on Instagram through publishing testimonials from community members. The submissions are anonymous, and the majority feels that on-campus law enforcement officers create a culture of fear and intimidation on campus, especially for students of color. 

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Speaking as a representative of Cops off Campus! S.B., San Marcos sophomore Noelle Cabrera asked that the district continue to include students in the conversation regarding how to fill the role of a supportive figure on campus without the use of law enforcement. “The Youth Coalition encourages you all to continue to move in the direction of reimagining school safety in a way that does not involve having police on campus, and instead putting that money toward a resource that can benefit all students,” Cabrera said.

The student group is part of a nationwide coalition demanding the removal of law-enforcement officers ​— ​including those from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, and any local police or sheriff’s departments ​— ​from any learning environment. Several groups, including Food Not Bombs Isla Vista, the Student Labor Action Coalition, and UCSB Cops off Campus, are holding an event on October 30 to protest the police presence in Isla Vista.


At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also gave an update on the district’s COVID vaccination efforts. As of October 21, more than 1,540 district employees have been fully vaccinated, with about 90 requesting exemption from the recent vaccine mandate for school employees. Since the beginning of the school year on August 16, about 100 students and 25 staff members have contracted COVID-19. 

The mandate required that all district employees receive their first shot by October 1 and their second by November 1. Chief of District Communications Camie Barnwell said there is a handful of employees who have not been vaccinated and have also not submitted a request for exemption. “These employees will be placed on unpaid leave. Human Resources will work with those who have requested exemptions on their unique request and any possible accommodations,” Barnwell said. 

Among students, 33 percent, or more than 3,000, secondary school students have submitted their vaccination cards, and more than 6,000 secondary school students have not confirmed their vaccination status. At elementary schools, about 84 percent of families have agreed to COVID-19 testing, with 15 percent not consenting. Of the more than 6,000 tests administered to students, 15 individuals have tested positive.

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