- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2014

The San Diego Unified School District is facing criticism for accepting a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, from the Department of Defense.

School officials and local police say not to worry — the vehicle will be used for storing teddy bears and medical supplies, not for conducting military-style operations, NPR reported.

But 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.

The Pentagon 1033 program allows the federal government to transfer castoff 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.

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,” San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Ruben Littlejohn told a local news station. “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 plan to store $20,000 to $30,000 worth of donated medical supplies in the armored vehicle.

The school district, meanwhile, also presented artists’ renderings that show the MRAP could be painted white and include images of the American Red Cross.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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