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Santa Barbara Unified School Board candidates talk safety at San Marcos High forum

The eight candidates vying for the two open seats on the Santa Barbara Unified School Board answered questions from students and staff at San Marcos High School Thursday.

Some of the candidates expressed concern about holding the community forum at SMHS, given recent school threats targeting this date.

The Santa Barbara County Sherif’s Office says Tuesday’s threat that caused concern is not credible and was most likely caused by a student who wanted to cause a disruption during the exam week.

Regardless, officials say all threats are taken seriously and a number of school board candidates mentioned safety and transparency when discussing their platforms.

After vocalizing his concerns, candidate Jim Gribble was relieved to see a school resource officer present at Thursday’s candidate forum.

“I heard there was a threat for a school shooting here on Thursday specifically, I just definitely wanted to reach out to local law-enforcement and the school to ensure there would be someone here to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” said Gribble.

Graffiti in a San Marcos High School bathroom and subsequent internet chatter had folks like Gribble and other parents on edge.

“Our schools are very safe places to be. There has been a history there depending on your side of what happened. Some people believe it was mishandled. I don’t necessarily believe it was mishandled, may have been communicated better but every time we found these threats to not be credible,” said Kelly Moore, Santa Barbara Unified’s Safety Coordinator.

San Marcos’ history with threats and personnel is a touchy subject and the topic of safety was one of the most mentioned themes in a San Marcos survey, determining questions for the school board candidates.

“I know there were personnel changes at San Marcos High School that we really wants 100% in back of so we want to make sure the people we elect have transparency,” said Mary Brown

“Our children need to be safe and we need to know what’s being done about that and what can be done,” said,” said Nancy Ulmer.

While candidates like Gribble want to talk to parents to discuss how they could better address these concerns, Santa Barbara Unified’s Safety Coordinator says the current board has been very proactive in addressing school safety.

“With the speed of the internet and social media, really get the facts before, their students are at the school but they’re hearing rumors and they’re not necessarily factual information that parents are getting. Really ask the right questions from the right people,” said Moore.

Other questions centered around mental health and equality, technology, dress code and academics.

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