Safety changes may come before end of school year

A handful of suggestions from the School District 51 School Security and Safety Work Group may be implemented before the close of the 2012-13 school year.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said Tuesday at a district school board meeting he will partner with District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita to find money in this year’s budget to act on suggestions from the group that can be implemented within the next few weeks with minimal funding and obstacles.

Those suggestions include reinforcing Crime Stoppers programming at all District 51 high schools and middle schools, getting materials from the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program that teaches kids what to do if they find a gun and encouraging volunteers to join Watch DOGS, a program being piloted at Shelledy Elementary that involves parents volunteering to patrol schools and help in classrooms. Funding may be needed to support background checks for Watch DOGS volunteers unless they offer to pay the fee for the check themselves.

School Board member Jeff Leany said he was “disappointed” the idea of having designated people carry concealed weapons on school grounds was not on Schultz’s list of immediate safety changes. The safety work group did not reach consensus on that idea but did recommend a list of safety trainings and program and participant evaluation standards if the board ever decided to pursue the idea.

“It’s just as readily available as these other ideas,” Leany said. “I’m all for gun-free zones, too, but, you know what, the bad guys aren’t.”

Schultz responded that the committee was clear that it could not agree on who, if anyone, should have guns in schools and that training and background checks would likely be part of any concealed weapon program.

“There would have to be some costs involved,” Schultz said.

Crime Stoppers programs exist in all District 51 middle and high schools but some are more active than others, according to District 51 Safety and Transportation Director Tim Leon. Leon said it became harder to keep programs robust in each school after stipends for staff to run the programs were cut in the late 1980s. Those stipends may make a return soon, at least temporarily, under Schultz’s plan.

Crime Stoppers of Mesa County President Brian Langfitt said during a presentation about the program at Tuesday’s meeting that Crime Stoppers-provided funding is just sitting in some schools with less-active programs.


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