Colorado Experts, Parents, Law Enforcement Officials Weigh In at School Safety Meeting

Colorado Experts Parents Law Enforcement Officials Weigh in at School Safety Meeting

In lieu of the STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colo., many Colorado schools and officials are trying to figure out the best way to prevent more shootings. On Thursday, the new school safety committee met for the first time, and there was a great deal of conflict.

Colorado’s new school safety committee, which was formed in the aftermath of the STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colo., met on Thursday for the first time at the Colorado State Capitol. The meeting was held in order to look into why the shooting happened and what laws could be passed to reduce the probability of another shooting.

According to the Denver Post, there was a great deal of dissent in the meeting as parents, students, law enforcement officials and more all testified and made suggestions for how to keep the schools safer. Many of the comments were about how the Colorado districts aren’t unified in protocol, training, and programs.

Mike Eaton, chief of safety for Denver Public Schools, said since some districts aren’t using the standard emergency protocol and it could cause problems in an emergency situation. He said it would be much better if all districts used the standard emergency protocol.

“Our current state of school safety – it’s strong,” Eaton said. “But unfortunately, it’s inconsistent.”

James Englert, an officer who is assigned to Arapahoe High School in Centennial, said training for school resource officers also varies from district to district. He suggested that each officer complete at least 40 hours of basic training and an addition 12 about adolescent mental health.

Lindsey Myers, branch chief of violence and injury prevention at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said that there’s inconsistency in which programs are used to improve mental health for students across districts. According to Myers, only 11 percent of Colorado middle schools and 16 percent of high schools use two programs that have been shown to cut the risk of suicide.

“In the schools that have implemented these programs, we have seen success,” Myers said.

She also added that the programs haven’t been shown the cut the risk of homicide, but many of the risk factors for suicide are the same ones that increase the odds of mass violence.

Brad Sitles, an emergency response outreach consultant at the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, said the center can’t track how districts chose to handle security, which could create confusion in an emergency.

“Because we’re local control, we don’t know,” Stiles said.

Some government officials also commented on the issues with school security and safety.

According to the Denver Post, Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat, said there was a disconnect between the programs they heard about and the feat students, parents, and teacher described in classrooms.

“We have a lot of systems that are in place, but we haven’t brought them to scale,” Gonzales said. “How do we bring them to scale in a way that doesn’t burden communities?”

In response to the complaints, Rep. Dafna Jenet, D-Commerce City and a committee chair, said the committee will focus on reducing the risk of suicide.

“There is no student that walks into school to commit a school shooting that thinks they’re coming out alive,” Jenet said. “If we can figure out that magic piece that is going to stop suicide, we can stop school shootings.”