Article by: San Diego Unified
Forty years after the first school shooting in city history, the San Diego Unified School District is remembering the victims and engaging the community in an effort to end gun violence.
San Diego Unified principal Burton Wragg and custodian Mike Suchar were killed in the shooting outside Cleveland Elementary School on January 29, 1979. School district and community leaders will meet today beside the memorial to the two men at district headquarters to discuss the continuing issue of gun violence.
Today’s discussion is the latest in the series of “Ed Talks,” forums designed to give journalists direct access to school district decision-makers.
“Principal Wragg and Mike Suchar lost their lives trying to save children from the first school shooter in San Diego history. Forty years later, we have to ask ourselves — as a city — whether we are doing everything we can possibly do to protect young people today,” said school board member Kevin Beiser. “The issue of gun violence is too big for schools to solve on our own, but schools are the right place for the conversation to start.”
Among the measures San Diego Unified has taken to increase campus security are: Increased fencing, cameras and other safeguards. They also include a push for students and parents to take steps to protect themselves by reporting suspicious activity, storing legal firearms safely, and taking legal action to get guns out of the hands of those who are a threat to themselves or others. San Diego students are also driving the conversation around school shootings, engaging with outside advocates and holding a special session of the student equity ambassadors.
“San Diego is setting a new model for the nation in confronting the issue of gun violence,” said Liz Harley, a Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence activist and member of San Diegans Against Gun Violence. She worked with Trustee Beiser to pass a resolution at the last school board meeting to proclaim the anniversary of the Parkland, Florida shooting as “Gun Safety Week” in San Diego Unified. During the week of Feb.11, San Diego Unified schools will be able to choose from a variety of free materials shared by the Brady campaign to encourage gun safety. Trustee Beiser and students from San Diego Unified will also be participating in a countywide Town Hall meeting on gun violence on February 15 at the Canyon Crest Academy.
Firearm deaths are now the third leading cause of death among children, and more than 80 percent of teen suicides involve a firearm from the home.