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Fontana, Calif., schools get high-powered rifles

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 12:15 am •  Published: January 24, 2013
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The district saved millions by restructuring guidance services, said Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks.

"I understand that people are looking at the layoffs, but $14,000 and $7 million is a huge disparity," she said.

The 40,000-student district came up with the school rifle program after consulting with top school safety experts and looking at what other large districts had done, said Olsen-Binks.

Santa Ana Unified School District, in nearby Orange County, has had a rifle program for about two years that operates similarly to the one Fontana has started, said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

The Los Angeles School Police Department also deploys rifles to its officers as needed, the department said in a statement. It would not say how many rifles district police have but said the weapons are kept in the department's armory and are handed out and returned daily.

The San Bernardino City Unified School District police force purchased four Bushmaster semiautomatic rifles last July, said Linda Bardere, a district spokeswoman.

Fontana is a city of about 200,000 people east of Los Angeles.

"I came from a teaching background, and it's appalling to think that we'd have to have security officers — let alone armed police officers — on our campuses. But the bottom line is ... everybody has anxiety over school safety right now," Olsen-Binks said. "Our police officers said they would take a bullet for these kids and because they are willing to put their lives on the line, they need to be equipped for all scenarios."

Only sergeants are authorized to check out the rifles from the police armory, where they are kept. All officers have been trained for years to use the rifles.

The Fontana rifle purchase did not require approval from the school board but member Leticia Garcia said she believes there should have been a public discussion before they were purchased.

"We're talking about a war-zone rifle, and so are we going to militarize our public schools?" Garcia asked. "We have to provide a safe haven for people to learn ... but this, to me, seems a little bit too much."

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Associated Press writers Robert Jablon and Christina Hoag in Los Angeles contributed to this report.