Fri Oct 13th, 2017
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
Public opinion was sought in the matter of stepping up security measures for the Ignacio School District on Tuesday, Oct. 10 during a school board meeting held at the school’s administration building.
Board members are looking at one of two options for increased security. One of those options would entail working with the Ignacio Police Department to hire a full time School Resource Officer (SRO) to patrol school grounds, buildings and be present in the event of an emergency. The second option, which is less commonly implemented by schools throughout the region, would be to designate ‘Armed Security Staff’ at each of Ignacio’s schools. Teachers, or staff members would undergo training in order to carry concealed firearms on campus.
“Our end goal is we want everyone to feel safe,” Ignacio School Board member, Robert Schurman said. “It’s been a two year process, there is no solid answer.”
Cost is a factor. Kathleen Morris, School Safety and Security Director for Durango School District 9-R voiced that she would continue to provide training for staff and schools. “In my perspective, your schools are very safe,” Morris said. “Your local law enforcement is your best resource,” she offered, in regards to the options at hand.
While some parents were in favor of arming the staff, most were not.
“As a parent — this is a big issue,” said Tamera Reynolds, a community member and parent. “It’s surprising that so many people in this community are for concealed weapons in the public school system.”
“It all begins at home,” Southern Ute Chairman Clement Frost said. “ You want safety in your schools, it’s time for us to be parents and raise responsible children — school are there to teach our kids.”
“Your SRO, your staff, might have weapons, but that is only going to create a shoot out,” Frost said.
“Think of the safety of the kids,” said Dean of Students for Ignacio High School, Alfonso “Ponch” Garcia.
Hiring a full time SRO, whose time would be split between the numerous schools, could cost the District as much as 51,000 annually. Having an officer on campus has become fairly common, and is the preventive measure now established in Durango, Bayfield and Cortez school districts. SROs are highly trained, uniformed officers; who work in conjunction with local law enforcement. This individual would become a part of the educational landscape, and have an intimate knowledge of the campus, as well as the faculty and students.
Ideally each school would have an SRO on staff. In the short term, depending on the Districts’ budget, a single officer might have to patrol five buildings throughout the Ignacio School District.
The second option is potentially more cost effective; arming teachers on each campus could cost the District 10,000 initially per person, plus additional cost associated with ongoing trainings, or faculty turnover. One argument for this option would be the ability to have a designated staff member armed at each school. Those teachers in turn would bear an immense responsibility as the ‘Armed Security Staff’ member for their building. The costs associated with this option include: training, insurance, and the cost of firearms themselves.
Some of the community members offered that they would feel comfortable with school faculty being armed with non-lethal Tasers, commonly used by law enforcement, in the event of a school emergency.
“We want our schools to be the safest they can be.” Southern Ute Vice Chairman Alex S. Cloud said. “You guys have resources within the school district, why not enhance those.”
Resources are available within the community; Ignacio Police Department, and the Southern Ute Police Department are within close proximity to Ignacio’s school campuses.
Each of the schools has undergone recent renovation, or new construction in the past few years, making them safer then most schools in Southwest Colorado from a physical standpoint. The buildings are modern, and have introduced security measures at each entrance, in addition to video surveillance and intercom systems. “Thanks to the Ignacio School Board and Superintendent Fuschetto, Ignacio schools were built with leading edge safety and security features,” Morris said. “Prevention is key — the safest school campus is the campus filled with staff and students that are aware and prepared.”
“I look forward to the School District reaching out to Tribal Council,” Southern Ute Councilwoman Amy Barry said. She also emphasized local entities working together for the common good. “The community, and our children — that is our priority.”
Schools in Colorado now have a legal obligation to maintain safety standards, under the recently introduced Claire Davis Act, which took effect in July of this year.