Law enforcement has cautioned Durango School District 9-R board members against arming civilian security officers with firearms.
La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith, Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer and State Patrol Capt. Adrian Driscoll were united Tuesday in their position: The best response to a school threat involving a weapon is trained law enforcement officers.
“School resource officers are much more than a gun in a school,” Smith said.
Armed officers in schools typically have several years of professional experience working in high-stress situations before they are assigned to schools, so they are prepared for conflict, he said.
Durango School District 9-R board members invited law enforcement to speak Tuesday night as the district determines whether to arm school security guards. The district is considering arming trained guards at the suggestion of community members and in light of some high-profile school shootings nationally.
The district’s proposed requirements for a security officer who could carry a weapon include 24 hours of weapons training, a psychological evaluation and a minimum of five years of law enforcement experience.
The board has not set a timeline for deciding whether to arm guards. It plans to do a series of public forums to gather feedback about the idea. The district also plans to gather feedback from school staff and students, said board President Nancy Stubbs.
“This is not going to be a quick decision,” she said.
One of the challenges for the district is the limited number of school resource officers the Durango Police Department can afford to assign to schools. Two officers are assigned to serve 13 schools within city limits, said Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
Insufficient staff is a problem for both the Sheriff’s Office and police department, officials said. In particular, local law enforcement can’t compete with wages offered by other agencies, Smith said.
He would like to see the community support a tax increase that would help fund local law enforcement, saying a La Plata County poll showed security is a priority.
“Let’s get a ballot measure to address it,” he said.
No such ballot measure has been formally proposed.
Members of the crowd applauded the position of law enforcement officials and called on the board to oppose armed security guards.
Robin Halloran, who opposes guns in schools, said she would like the district to educate the community about gun safety and the importance of keeping weapons locked up so that would-be school shooters can’t bring weapons to school.
“We aren’t doing everything we can to keep schools safe at this time,” said Halloran, wearing a bright red Moms Demand Action for Gun Security in America T-shirt.
She also informed the board that she has gathered hundreds of signatures in support of a petition opposing arming school staff.
The district will hold two public forums to gather feedback about arming school guards in October. The first one will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at Durango High School. The second one will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at Escalante Middle School.