|(Oct. 30, 2020, 5:00 p.m.) -- Eleven years ago tonight (Oct. 30) Wilson High Honor Student Melody Ross, age 16, attending her school's "homecoming" celebration, was killed by a gangmember's gunfire aimed at someone else.
LBPD identified and arrested the killer. Prosecutors prosecuted him. A court sentenced and resentenced him to roughly 100 years in state prison.
A Facebook page in memory of Ms. Ross surfaced and drew over 2,700 followers.
An annual scholarship/award was created in Ms. Ross' name. (It should be better publicized by Wilson's administration.)
But eleven years after Ms. Ross' death, we regret that in our view LBUSD's incumbent School Boardmembers haven't prioritized ridding their campuses and the neighborhoods they serve from a chronic continuing gang presence.
Yes, this matter directly affects student learning. Yes, it disproportionately affects working class LB neighborhoods. Yes, it perpetuates a status quo that contributes to the "tale of two cities" inequity geographically visible in Long Beach.
Gang related shootings bring police sirens, helicopters above, crime scene tape and blocked streets. These prevent students in frequently historically disadvantaged areas from doing what students in more affluent parts of LB take for granted: to safely walk to their neighborhood library, to visit with their fellow students, to attend school events, to focus on their school work without interruption on matters affecting their safety.
Yes, we believe this should be an LBUSD election issue. We regret that historically it hasn't ben so. We believe this needs to change for basic equity in the next election cycle (for 3 of 5 School Board members.)
Consider the record of now-retiring LBUSD Boardmember Dr. Felton Williams, elected in 2004; In 2006, a Cabrillo student was shot to death just outside the school. Students and parents in the Washington Middle School neighborhood continue to endure repeated shootings. In 2015, Cabrillo High student Keshawn Brooks, 15 (not a gang member) was stabbed to death in a gang-related robbery as he walked home from school. In 2019, video documented gang-related bullying and a beating -- the type of actions about which parents had complained without success foe years -- in and around Poly High.
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Do parents really want his replacement to do as little as he has done to rid schools in the district he represented of the gang presence they've incubated and effectively tolerated? In our opinion, voters should begin insisting that School Board members prioritize the safety of students at their campuses and the neighborhoods they serve. Yes, the latter means publicly pressing the City Council to take more aggressive anti-gang actions (instead of "defunding" police and failing to restore LBPD's former field anti-gang unit.)
We realize criticizing Council incumbents is blood poison to some school board incumbents to whom they're joined at the political hip, but that needs to change. If some School Board incumbents prefer to defer to City Hall incumbents whose actions shrug the interests of students and parents, we encourage School Board chalengers with better priorities to run against and replace the incumbents. (The next regularly scheduled school board election for 3 of 5 School Boardmembers is in 2022.)
We regret that the two runoff candidates now seeking to succeed the retiring Dr. Williams -- Erik Miller and Tonia Reyes Uranga -- haven't prioritized getting the gangs out of LB schools and their neighborhoods. What do you suppose Melody Ross would recommend if she could speak now? .
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