If You Go

What: Special meeting, Fontana Unified School District board

Why: To discuss reinstating the district's comprehensive counseling program and the purchase of 14 rifles by the school district police.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: John Piazza Education Center, 9680 Citrus Ave., Fontana

FONTANA - A community organizer is circulating a petition to get assault rifles out of the "toolbox" for school district police.

The petition comes after news that Fontane Unified school police purchased 14 Colt semi-automatic military style assault rifles for $14,000.

"A school campus is no place for these weapons," said Bobbi Jo Chavarria, co-founder of a community organization called Fontana Grow.

In effect, she said, the weapons change the atmosphere at the district.

"There is a difference between city police and school police," she said. "We are treating our students on their campus like street criminals."

The purchase of the rifles late last year will be discussed at a special school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. today.

Restoring the district's general counseling programs is also on the agenda.

Acting school district Police Chief Billy Green and Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks ordered the rifles, which resemble the firearm used by U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan.

The difference is that the soldiers' rifles are "full-auto," meaning that they fire continuously as long as the trigger is held down.

The school district weapons are semi-automatic, meaning the trigger must be pulled each time for them to fire.

Both weapons use .223-caliber ammunition.

Chavarria said Green and Olsen-Binks should not have embarked on a policy to "militarize" the school district without public input.


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As the amount was less than $25,000, school board approval wasn't needed for their purchase in October. The firearms arrived in December and each officer who is allowed to check out a rifle has completed a 40-hour training course, officials said.

Not all district residents side with Chavarria.

"I'm not an NRA kind of guy, but police need to be given the tools they need to do their job," said Carlos Bravo, 40, a lifelong Fontana resident.

In a letter to parents, Green wrote that the law enforcement rifle "is a tool which provides officers with increased accuracy, increased stopping power and enhances the distance in which an officer can eliminate a threat to your child's life."

The rifles are for emergencies and will not be routinely carried by district police officers, Green said.

"If you have a rational and logical discussion on the pros and cons of policy, like this, that is when people can make a decision," Chavarria said.

She has a goal of obtaining 25,000 signatures with no deadline.

"Originally my goal was going to be 40,000 - one signature for every student in the district," she said. "When you only have reactionary responses and a public relations blitz (from the school police department), people are not going to feel comfortable with something like this."

jim.steinberg@inlandnewspapers.com 909-386-3855