Armed adults in local schools off the table
Armed volunteers and staff in local schools had been wiped from the District 51 School Security and Safety Work Group’s list of recommendations presented Tuesday night to the District 51 School Board. But the idea has not been wiped from the minds of both supporters and opponents of the proposals.
The idea of allowing teachers, administrators and/or volunteers to carry concealed weapons in schools was discussed by safety work group members throughout the seven meetings the group had in February and March. The group, tasked with researching and then recommending a list of possible safety measures the school board could act on, decided at their final meeting Monday not to recommend having armed people aside from law enforcement in schools due to a lack of agreement among group members on the topic. A presentation to the board by the group’s co-chairs, District 51 Executive Director of Academic Achievement Mary Jones and Colorado Mesa University Vice President for Student Support John Marshall, included a checklist of background checks and training the district should consider if it ever wanted to research the topic further and consider armed personnel in the future.
Even with the topic downgraded in the work group’s presentation, the topic of armed people in schools dominated much of the board meeting’s audience comment time. Arvan Leany, father of School Board and safety group member Jeff Leany, told the board he believes “an armed school is the most cost-effective, safest way to protect our kids.”
“I know teachers aren’t supposed to be armed guards but they’re not supposed to be pall bearers at their students’ funerals either,” Arvan Leany said.
Roxanne Dennis, a district employee and mother of students in the district, said she would take a bullet for students but she would not want to bring bullets into schools.
“I am afraid but guns in the schools will not decrease my fear. My fear is the more guns, the more risk of gun violence,” she said.
Passions were high among many of the approximately 100 audience members at the meeting following a pair of heated, coinciding rallies that began a half-hour before the board meeting. The rallies took place outside the entrance of the building where the meeting took place, The Basil T. Knight Center.
Supporters of armed personnel in schools, led by safety work group member David Cox, held signs with slogans like “Fight fire with fire” and “Gun-free zones make easy targets for killers.” Interspersed in the crowd were people against the idea holding signs that said “No guns in schools” and like-minded slogans. People from either side argued the merits or pitfalls of guns in schools, although sometimes the discussion got off-topic to include discussion of guns in general or President Barack Obama.
Although guns didn’t make the cut, the safety group’s presentation to the board did recommend the installation of panic buttons, special locks, electronic sign in/sign out systems, scanners, more cameras, bullet-proof doors and windows, electronic door locks, clearer signs on doors and buildings, and buying more two-way radios.
The group also recommended strengthening ways for schools to identify students who may be a danger to themselves or others; fostering better relationships between students and an increased number of counselors, school resource officers and other adults at school; and conducting more training in bullying and suicide prevention, alternative conflict resolution, assessing threats, preparing for a school shooting, lockdowns and other drills, and encouraging students to report threats to Crime Stoppers.
The board did not make any immediate decisions Tuesday based on the group’s recommendations.
Board member Leany said he feels the district should consider a number of lower-cost options, including armed teachers or volunteers.
Board member Ann Tisue did not comment specifically on armed personnel but did say she had heard there are 100 times more examples of guns preventing shootings than examples of mass shootings.