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What about safety at other Lathrop elementary schools?

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POSTED October 3, 2012 1:10 a.m.

LATHROP – Dan Doyle believes that the safety of children should be a top priority.

In the last month two young students were subjected to a man exposing himself – one in a bathroom after school on the Lathrop Elementary campus and another just around the corner as the student was walking to school.

But when it involves the City of Lathrop possibly getting involved with the Manteca Unified School District in a partnership or agreement to cover a portion of the cost for the installation of cameras that could possibly identify or deter perpetrators, he’s dead set against it.

And his opinion caused a minor stir during the public discussion portion of the Lathrop City Council meeting Monday night.

Doyle’s comments – referencing a comment that councilman and mayoral candidate Sonny Dhaliwal made during a meeting with concerned parents – drew a reaction from Dhaliwal that resulted in a brief back-and-forth discussion between the two.

Doyle claimed that if the city were to install cameras at Lathrop Elementary, then other schools would come out of the woodwork and start asking for the same thing – putting the city in an awkward position with Manteca Unified and possibly opening the city up to litigation.

Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos traditionally requires all speakers during the citizens’ forum portion of the meeting to direct their comments through him.

“I respectfully disagree. These are our kids, and protecting them is our responsibility – I will not shy away from that,” Dhaliwal said – noting that his comments to the parents stated that he would lobby for the cameras if the district couldn’t afford them – possibly splitting the cost. “I will advocate to my colleagues if that request is made.

“I know those schools belong to Manteca Unified, but if they say they don’t care what are we supposed to do? Say that we don’t care? I’ll always advocate for the protection of our kids.”

As Doyle was walking away from the lectern Santos said “(the) First Amendment is for recognizing your freedom of speech.”

The cost of the cameras could be as much as $70,000.

A large parent meeting that drew considerable media attention was held following the first afterschool exchange. Parents were upset that the meeting was held late in the following week and claimed that some weren’t immediately informed about the situation.

Lathrop Police Services is still investigating the two incidents that took place. The first involved a participant in an afterschool program that was approached by a man in a bathroom, and the second involved a student that saw a man exposing himself while walking to campus.

According to a letter that sent home with students last week, an unidentified pupil was walking near Warfield Road and Thomsen Avenue just before 8 a.m. when a young Asian male inside of a grey, compact four-door sedan exposed himself before driving away.

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