NewsCovering Kern County

Actions

Resource officers pulled from schools due to KCSO staffing shortages

Posted at 6:38 PM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 21:39:16-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — In the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, some parents say it has become a lot more stressful to drop off their kids at school now that Kern County Sheriff's Office deputies have been removed from school grounds.

One parent 23ABC spoke with says she has no peace of mind.

"To think about them not returning home to me every day, it has only worried me in the last couple of years," said Jeanil Willingham, a mother of two Wingland Elementary School students.

A tough conversation she had to have when her daughter brought up that the officers were gone.

"And I said 'well does that make you feel unsafe,' and she said a little bit."

She says everyone nowadays is on edge, including the students.

"It’s a sense of security for the kids, they hear things, they watch YouTube, they see things and it is our job to make them feel secure," said Willingham.

The school her kids attend, Wingland Elementary in Oildale, is one of the four schools in the district that has had a single school resource officer rotating among the campuses for years.

The school district says it would like to have him on campus again but the staffing situation at KCSO has not permitted it and they are not the only school district.

"It wasn’t like 'hey we are not giving you school resource officers.' We just didn’t have the staffing sufficient for what the contracts were asking of us so they chose to not move forward with the contacts," explained Lori Meza with the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

Meza says they don’t have an exact number of how many districts are impacted but says despite this school calls are still a top priority.

"That has never been something we were going to sacrifice despite a shortage of staffing."

Meanwhile, the district is hiring campus supervisors to replace the officer it lost. But Willingham says that is not enough as these supervisors will not be armed.

"Deadly force must be met with deadly force."

However, the district says only those trained to carry weapons should have that responsibility and it is taking additional security steps.

"Additional camera, visitor screening. We have partnered with our California resource association to bring active assailant training to our staff and we are starting that this week," said Jocelyn Hively, the superintendent at the Standard School District.

Hively says they are also taking a comprehensive approach to these threats.

"Improving school climate and making sure we have those resources in place for that as well and we have expanded the number of support services personnel we have from behavior specialists to mental health clinicians."

23ABC did speak with parents as they came here to pick up their kids. Some did not share the concern, others said they were more worried about this for high schools rather than elementary schools and others concurred with the mother who shared her story.