04/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Safe Communities Start with Safe Schools -- Support Cops Protecting Campuses

Education is a way out -- and a way forward. But, in California's most crime-ridden high schools, education is also putting our students in harm's way.

My folks came a long way -- immigrating from Bolivia and Japan -- and working as janitors to provide a better, safer life for my three brothers and me. Like a lot of immigrants, we lived in a neighborhood that was full of fine families, but also home to a small group of young people who were making the wrong choices. So, my brothers and I would watch out for each other on the way to school -- and in the halls between classes.

Today, my brother Fabian, is still watching out for kids as a proud veteran of the San Jose Police Department while my brother, Cesar, keeps a sharp eye out for students as principal of Franklin Elementary School.

And I'm doing my part to keep a watchful eye out for young people with new legislation I am introducing this week -- the Cops Protecting Campuses bill that will make sure at-risk high schools receive a trained and uniformed police officer helping to keep gangs out of our schools and our children on the right track.

The Cops Protecting Campuses program will start at 100 high schools across California with the highest crime rates. There is currently no statewide program assigning police officers to school campuses, despite the fact that schools can be a breeding ground for drugs and gangs, violence and discord.

My commitment to safety and justice is personal. I know firsthand that when our communities aren't safe, we don't have justice. That's the way it was in the neighborhood where my brothers and I grew up. And, that's why I am so passionate about making sure every Californian has the right to safety -- safety in our homes, on our streets and in our schools.

We need to address violence and gang activity in our schools and we need to address this now. California's schools, once the pride of our nation, have been gutted by record budget deficits that have led to record budget cuts. We are already failing to live up to the educational promises we made to our children. We also cannot default on our promise to keep them safe and secure, especially while they are in school.

This is why the Cops Protecting Campuses program is so necessary, and also why we need to structure the program to allow school districts to apply for and be awarded grants that will address the specific needs of the community. This small investment will yield tremendous dividends.

The Cops Protecting Campuses effort goes beyond money, beyond deficits, beyond cuts and most importantly, beyond politics. This strikes at the very heart of what is, unquestionably and unconditionally, California's most important resource: our children.

Please join me in supporting the Cops Protecting Campuses program and urge your state legislators to do the same. To learn more and to sign our online petition, I encourage you to visit: