Taking the next steps on school safety

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Dr. Jason Glass, Jeffco superintendent

On March 14, thousands of Jeffco students participated in a national school walkout effort related to the tragic incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. As this protest also involved a political perspective associated with the gun-control issue, Jeffco Public Schools didn’t take a position or formally endorse the walkouts.
However, given the magnitude of the protest, we took steps to encourage students to keep the event orderly, timely and respectful. Staff and local law enforcement coordinated on behalf of student safety, including those who didn’t wish to participate or who had an opposing view.
I am pleased to report that the event occurred as planned, with schools returning to normal operation within 30 to 45 minutes. There were no incidents of violence, damage to property or disrespectful behavior reported.
I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to our students, our school and district staff, our law enforcement partners across Jeffco, and members of our community for working together to ensure that outcome.
I have heard from many in the community who felt that the district should’ve taken a different approach. These suggestions ranged from having our schools fully endorse and support the walkouts and accompanying calls for increased gun-control legislation to those who felt we should’ve been ignoring it or punishing students for taking part. I understand these perspectives, but, ultimately, felt that the balanced approach we took was the right one.
As we turn the page on this event, we now shift our attention to the conversation we must have as a community about the next steps we should take related to school safety. Jeffco Public Schools already has many continuously running systems and supports in place to provide a safe learning environment for our students. However, since the Florida shooting, several ideas have been put forward as possible improvements to school safety procedures. These ideas include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Arming teachers and other school staff.
• Securing our buildings with metal detectors, closed campuses and other physical features.
• Restricting or outlawing firearms.
• Adding new mental health resources and supports to schools.
While each of these (and other) proposed solutions has supporters and is worthy of consideration, each has significant drawbacks as well. Constitutional, ideological, resources, potential effectiveness (will it work to solve the problem) and community values are a few of these challenges.
Further, several of these options may be difficult to realistically implement, or they may bring foreseeable problems we should carefully consider.
In short, there are no easy answers. If it were easy, it would’ve been done already. So, we need more input from the community on our next steps. We need to hear from each other, understanding that we all love Jeffco’s children and wish them to be safe from harm.
Over the next several months, Jeffco’s School Safety and Security Task Force will work to recommend potential shifts in policies and practices at our schools, so they are as safe as they can be and our solutions are in line with our community values.
I want to be clear that this work to engage the community will not keep our current district leadership and school safety staff from implementing changes aligned with current best practices on school safety. At Jeffco Public Schools, we are constantly aware of our community’s painful past when it comes to school violence and are continuously reviewing and implementing changes to our practices to keep our schools as safe as we possibly can.
I deeply understand the passion and emotion this issue creates in our community. In addition to being superintendent, I am also a father of two school-aged children. Please know this is personal to me, just as it is to you.
I encourage us all to take the time to hear our neighbors and their perspectives. Just because we believe something different doesn’t necessarily make one side right or wrong. I believe deeply in our schools, our community, and this country – and I know we are capable of joining together to solve big problems, especially when it comes to our children.

Dr. Jason E. Glass is the superintendent for Jeffco Public Schools.