The 2018-19 Ventura County Grand Jury has released reports and findings on everything from youth sports to pesticide monitoring, which are used by county officials in crafting ordinances and regulations.

The Grand Jury is a civil investigatory panel of 19 created to serve “as a voice of the people and a conscience of the community.” The all-volunteer panel rules on issues presented to them, but their findings are not enforceable and are merely recommendations.

To read Grand Jury reports in their entirety, visit www.ventura.org/grand-jury and click on “Fiscal Year 2018-2019.”

Local youth sports lacks protection from concussions, abuse

The Ventura County Grand Jury has conducted an investigation regarding youth sports in Ventura County and has found that many districts require no proof that sports leagues unaffiliated with a national governing body that make use of city-owned property are in compliance with state law regarding child safety.

Non-affiliated sports leagues are not regulated by bodies such as the American Youth Soccer Organization or Little League, says the Grand Jury report, noting that the lack of oversight sparked the investigation into whether or not these leagues were in compliance with laws “pertaining to the protection of youth from physical or sexual abuse” as well as concussion-related injuries.

The jury found that most districts allow for non-affiliated leagues to use public facilities for practice or play but do not require proof of compliance with California law. In light of their findings, the jury has recommended that cities and districts require proof of compliance with protections, such as developing a method by which to report abuse, as a condition for allowing them to use public facilities. It also recommends that cities review insurance coverage and parental-waiver requirements in regard to potential claims that may arise.

County drug disposal program needs work

There exists a discrepancy between the amount and type of drugs the Ventura County Behavioral Health reports being collected at county disposal sights and the amount that the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office actually collects, the Grand Jury has found during its investigation of drug disposal bins located around the county.

In 2009, the VCBH partnered with the Sheriff’s Office in the collection and disposal of unused and expired medications. In 2016, however, the Thousand Oaks Acorn reported on an incident where a senior deputy was alleged to have stolen drugs from a disposal bin, thus sparking the 2018-19 investigation.

On top of the discrepancy, the jury found that the public is poorly informed of the disposal bins’ whereabouts and how to use them.

The jury has recommended that the Ventura County Board of Supervisors develop a program to come into compliance with a recently passed state bill, SB 212, which requires manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceuticals to fund collection points and disposal programs. The jury also recommends that law enforcement agencies update their websites with better information on the disposal bins for public use.

Sex-education program lacks clarity, says jury

In 2015, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the California Healthy Youth Act, which requires students from grades 7 through 12 to receive comprehensive sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention education. The law also requires that parents be notified that there is no punishment for opting out of the program or that there is an alternative curriculum available. The Grand Jury has found that while all but one of 18 districts had implemented sex education programs, none provided information as fully required by the law.

The jury recommended that there be better clarity in district notifications that explain parental rights regarding sexual education that should include details of the curriculum and student surveys, which they say would better reflect the intent of the legislation.

Pesticide monitoring effective but should be expanded

The Grand Jury has found that while pesticide, herbicide and fumigant monitoring in proximity to schools and daycares in Ventura County has been effective in reducing exposure, it also found that there is only one site where monitoring is taking place and therefore recommends expanding the program to improve confidence.

Pesticide usage near Ventura County schools, and in particular in Oxnard, has been a contentious subject. In 2015, Oxnard became the focal point in a battle over the use of pesticides in proximity to residential areas, in particular, those applied to crops near neighboring schools.

In 2014, a report released by the Department of Public Health showed that in 2010, 30 percent of Ventura County schools were within one-quarter mile of fields using potentially harmful, carcinogenic pesticides. Earlier in the same year, the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting reported that of all campuses in the state, Rio Mesa High School sat in proximity to the most fields that applied higher levels of the riskiest pesticides.

Ventura County agriculture is a $2 billion business, says the jury report.

In conclusion, the jury found that a lack of complaints over the past two years from schools and day-care campuses suggests that current regulations are working, including limiting spraying of pesticides to hours during which schools or day cares are not in session. An increase in monitoring at or around more schools or daycares would increase public confidence, however, regarding safety.