#schoolsafety | Durango School District forum highlights new security personnel, investments

A Durango School District 9-R forum about school safety Wednesday highlighted how the district is investing in new equipment, training and personnel, in addition to weighing whether to arm school security guards with firearms.

The 9-R school board is considering arming security guards at the request of a group called Parents for Safer Schools. The district would only arm guards with five years’ experience in law enforcement and who have received the same training as a law enforcement officer, Superintendent Dan Snowberger said.

The board could make a decision on whether to arm guards by November, but nothing has been finalized, he said.

“The board doesn’t have this nefarious plot saying, ‘Let’s do this,’” Snowberger told the crowd.

Before the board makes a decision, it plans to hold a second forum and survey parents, students and community members. Thus far, the majority of people to speak out about the issue have opposed the measure, Snowberger told the crowd at Durango High School.

During the forum, 9-R officials did not take oral testimony about arming security guards, instead asking for the crowd to fill out paper surveys.

Many members of the crowd wore Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence T-shirts, and some members of the group questioned why they could not provide spoken feedback.

Instead of taking testimony, questions from the crowd were posed to a panel comprised of Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer, Durango Fire Deputy Chief Randy Black, teacher Celeste Dunlop, Miller Middle School Principal Jennifer McKenna, DHS student Hannah Wills and parent Sam Petitto.

When asked what they would do to improve school security if money was no object, the panel voiced different approaches.

Petitto and Brammer said they would like to see more school resource officers, while Dunlop and McKenna called for more mental health supports and Wills called for more training for teachers to handle emergencies.

“There are still some teachers in the building that get very frazzled,” she said.

The district is planning to act in some of these areas, Snowberger said.

For example, the district has budgeted $105,000 for the Durango Police Department to hire a third school resource officer who will work in 9-R schools. The funding will cover salary, benefits, training and equipment. The new officer is expected to start in January, he said.

The district also received a $1.1 million state grant to fund safety measures, including additional training for teachers and school staff, said Kathy Morris, safety and security coordinator. Grants are also funding vestibules, surveillance cameras, ballistic film on school windows and upgraded radio systems to allow school staff to speak with law enforcement, she said.

To help bolster security, the district has also asked high school students to wear their IDs to school so intruders cannot pose as students, Snowberger said.

The district may also put in new physical barriers in front of school doors, such as bollards, where needed to prevent intruders from driving into buildings, he said.

When asked if they felt safe in school, the student, teacher and administrator were united in the affirmative because of school resource officers, security guards and Safe2Tell, an anonymous tip line that allows students to report threats.

“I feel more safe than I do at the grocery store,” Dunlop said.

The second forum about school safety will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Escalante Middle School.

mshinn@durangoherald.com


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