Incidences where a firearm was discharged in a school setting is not a new phenomenon in the United States. In fact, shootings at schools have been occurring since the 1700s.
By 1993, the United States saw some of the most violent times in school shooting incidences, perhaps due to the drastic increase in gun violence that surged at the same time. That devastating trend has continued throughout the 2000s.
School districts across the nation, including Archuleta School District, have taken the safety and security of its students and staff very seriously and have implemented recommended safety and emergency procedure protocols designed to prevent and deal with school shooting and other catastrophic events. Those protocols are assessed and improvements made continuously.
Yet, since the deadly massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999, (which wasn’t even the worst early mass school shooting in terms of deaths and casualties), more and more people have been unwilling to accept that deadly school shootings are just part of the world we live in or that this is a problem that the school district needs to fix.
The shooting that took place just this past February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, seemed to galvanize communities into yet more action. Community members have rallied in support of their schools and taken an active stance in being part of the solution.
“This is not just a school issue; this is a community issue,” commented Warren Brown, who is one of a five-member team that has come together to lend support and offer options. Led by Ken Fox, a retired U.S. Air Force Lt Col and past member of ASD’s Board of Education, the group is known as Safe Schools NOW and is charged with researching options and recommending near-term priorities for improving school safety. Other members include Lisl Keuning, Lin Stewart, and Jason Peterson.
Since April, Safe Schools NOW has accomplished the following: established a team of community volunteers; met with building principals to gather priorities for school safety and security; conducted safety/security audits at each of the schools; conducted an ASD staff survey regarding school safety and security; and met with the Chief of Police and Archuleta County Sheriff to discuss options for additional security.
Their report to ASD’s Board on May 14, 2018, based on their findings, included the following recommendations:
- A School Resource Officer (SRO) Program should be adopted by the District with the goal of bringing on board four SROs to cover duties at each of the school campuses. Approximate cost of these officers is $85,000/year for each SRO. The cost of the program could be shared by City and County government as well as the District. Additional options for financial support would need to be considered. NOTE: It is important to realize that individuals filling SRO positions will have to be identified, vetted, and trained before they can assume their responsibilities.
- The first phase of physical upgrades to the school buildings should happen this summer. Examples of those upgrades include constructing an entrance vestibule and realigning the office location at the elementary; reinforcing windows at all the schools; improving communications capabilities via a radio system; installing a buzzer system with additional camera coverage and sensors at school entrances. Longer-term considerations (dependent on BEST grant funding) could entail installing improved ventilation systems and addressing structural issues.
- Schedule a Standard School Response Training (SRP/SRM) Seminar for District staff with a community presentation to follow. The seminar is a product of the “I Love U Guys” Foundation, founded by John Michael Keys, who lost his daughter, Emily, at the Platte Canyon High School shooting in 2006. Learn more about the foundation at iloveuguys.org.
Safe Schools NOW estimates cost for the recommendations to be in the ballpark of $425,000 with cost-saving options to be determined.
ASD’s Board unanimously accepted the group’s recommendation and urged its members to continue their work to help the District address safety and security issues in our schools now. The Board’s final decisions on expenditures will occur once the budget process has been completed and funding levels have been determined.