Are schools sending the message they're "at war with students?" This is crazy!
The San Diego Unified School District is facing plenty of criticism from the community over its acceptance of a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle -- an MRAP -- from the Department of Defense.
But the school and local police are saying not to worry -- the vehicle will be used for the likes of storing teddy bears and medical supplies, and not for conducted military-type operations, NPR reported.
The Pentagon 1033 program allows the federal government to transfer cast-off military equipment, including armored vehicles, night vision goggles and high-powered weapons, to local police departments around the nation -- leading into criticisms and concerns of a growing militarized police force. But the school district's acceptance of the MRAP has ratcheted concerns further.
One school board trustee, Scott Barnett, called the decision to take the MRAP a "misguided priority," and suggested it was better off with local police, NPR reported. He made the remarks in context of discussing the school's payment for the vehicle, which came in at $5,000 for shipment costs. The vehicle itself is valued at $733,000, but the school obtained it for free, NPR reported.
A day before the school district was to take possession of the MRAP, administrators and local law enforcement held a press conference to stave off criticisms from the community.
"There will be medical supplies in the vehicle," said San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Ruben Littlejohn, in NPR. "There will be teddy bears in the vehicle. There will be trauma kits in the vehicle in the event any student is injured and our officers are trained to give first aid and CPR."
KPBS reported that school officials say they're going to store $20,000 to $30,000 worth of donated medical supplies in the armored vehicle.
The school district, meanwhile, also present artists' renderings that show the MRAP could be painted white and include images of the American Red Cross.
But not all in the community are happy with the school's latest buy.
"They can call it a 'love buggy,' a 'student patrol limo,' or a 'campus polio fun bus' and then paint it pretty colors," one wrote on the KPBS website, where the story of the school's new MRAP was posted. "But that doesn't change the fact it's a piece of military equipment that is unnecessary and sends the message that local officials are at war with students."