Community task force asks Jeffco Schools to study possibility of arming teachers

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Requests also includes other security upgrades

By Sal Christ

Parents and other Jeffco community members have asked Jeffco Public Schools to study whether arming teachers and other staff would improve the safety and security of the district’s 155 schools and the roughly 86,000 students that pass through those doors almost every day.

Among dozens of recommendations and requests presented Oct. 4 by Jeffco’s school safety and security community task force, the possibility of arming teachers and other staff could come to fruition if the school district agrees later this month to study other locales where non-security staff are or were armed, and later decide that Jeffco would benefit from such measures.

“This would primarily be for elementary school levels (to bridge a gap left unfilled by a school resource officer or SRO),” said Jason Thompson, a task force member and father of a Jeffco second-grader. “We’re not saying ‘no’ to armed staff and we’re not saying ‘yes.’ We’re just asking for it to be looked at further with district staff and security to see if it’s something that would work here.”

Thompson, who spoke on behalf of the tactics and response subcommittee, told the school board that the study of whether to arm teachers and other staff would be in addition to different security requests for Jeffco’s middle and high schools, which include adding campus supervisors to all middle schools by the 2019-20 school year and adding one armed campus supervisor to every high school — a role that would supplement any existing SROs already on staff at individual schools.

The tactics subcommittee also recommended allocating funds to add SROs to every middle and high school in the district, providing more frequent training on standard response protocols, holding biannual lockdown drills, improving school and classroom access for law enforcement, increasing security at the district’s two Outdoor Lab schools, and more.

Mental health supports, physical security measures also recommended

In addition, task force members also recommended adding more mental health professionals to school staffs — both counselors and psychologists or social workers; adding physical security features such as 3M Safety and Security Film to windows and adding alarms to classroom doors; improving lockdown spaces; adding panic buttons and ballistic shielding to temporary and modular buildings or removing the temp buildings altogether; and providing more information to parents and students about threat assessments and what happens when a concern is reported.

Task force members on the climate and culture subcommittee also requested that the district provide quarterly trainings for staff, parents and students on topics including sexual harassment and assault, social media safety, gun safety, drugs, self-harm and suicide risk.

The recommendations come several months after the school district held a community-wide forum on school safety and security in the wake of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 14 students and three staff members dead. The task force, which was assembled following that forum, consists of four subcommittees and 50 community members selected from throughout the district.

Board welcomes recommendations

Though a decision on the recommendations was not made last Thursday, board members asked task force members, as well as partner organizations such as the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office, about everything from evaluation of questionable social media posts to lockdown trainings, to the number of new SROs that were added to Jeffco schools earlier this year.

While board treasurer Brad Rupert expressed concerns about safety and security efforts focusing too heavily on large-scale crises versus smaller ones, vice president Ali Lasell inquired about ways to maintain schools as the heart of the community versus transforming them into places lacking warmth and pride in light of increased security.

Overall, board members welcomed the recommendations and thanked task force members for their efforts.

A final report from the district about what recommendations it will implement, as well as implementation plans and an introduction from Superintendent Jason Glass, is expected Oct. 19. 

Contact reporter Sal Christ at sal@evergreenco.com or at 303-350-1035. Follow her on Twitter at @decriture.