Creede School District hosts public forum on school safety options
CREEDE — The small meeting room at the Creede School District was packed to the brim Monday night, April 3, as community members, teachers, staff, and students gathered to listen to discussions and a public speaker talk about the current safety protocols during a work session held by the Creede Board of Education.
The school board has been working with local law enforcement professionals and other school safety experts for almost a year, looking at options on how they as a district can increase school safety. Though the district is small and in a rural community, the board, parents, teachers, staff, and local law enforcement understand the importance of having secure safety measures in place.
Through these discussions, the district has reached out to the community and asked for their input throughout the process by sending out two different surveys several months apart to gain a perspective before making decisions like having an armed teacher or staff member or hiring a School Resource Officer (SRO) to increase law enforcement presence at the school.
During the work session discussion, school board members shared the results of the most recent survey. The survey asked three questions to seek input on current school safety, what the district could do to improve school safety and whether the school should arm a teacher or staff member or hire a School Resource Officer. The results showed that the community feels that more should be done to increase safety at the school and that mental health was one topic that should be increased in the daily education of students.
In November of last year, the school board allowed a local parent, Michelle Meals to seek professionals in all areas of school safety to create a panel of experts on the topic to help the public and the board gain perspective of arming staff members versus hiring an SRO. The panel was comprised of gun expert Peter Gurfein, Tom Mauser, Mike Manfredi, Mineral County Sheriff Terry Wetherill, and school counselor Danielle Ceja.
The panel spoke about the importance of carefully weighing the decision placed before the board. Gurfein, a gun expert and avid hunter with Giffords Gun Owners for Safety group out of Colorado Springs, was the first to speak to the audience.
“I am here because I do not believe that armed teachers will increase the safety of our children. The argument for having armed teachers relies heavily on the ‘good guy with a gun’ myth that has been disproven time and again. According to the National Institute of Health, only 1% of people actually successfully protect themselves with guns in an armed confrontation,” stated Gurfein. “Again, I don’t think that armed teachers in this school will add safety. I think it will be the contrary. Seek another alternative. See something, say something.”
Gurfein went on to state that having a gun in situations such as school shootings makes a person more likely to be shot than if the people involved were unarmed. Gurfein also stated that arming teachers increases the exposure of students to gun violence and should be avoided at all costs.
Next to speak was Mauser, the father of Daniel Mauser a student who was killed during the Columbine School shooting that occurred in 1999. Mauser also advocated against the use of armed teachers at school stating that the only hero on the day of the Columbine School shooting was the unarmed teacher who protected and helped his students escape during the incident, Dave Sanders.
“Our school had an armed SRO who engaged with the shooter and didn’t stop the shooters. The hero that day was teacher Dave Sanders and not because he shot at the killers but because he was shot and killed while helping the students escape,” said Mauser.
Mauser also pointed out that the school could be held liable for incidents where armed teachers or staff members were involved in an incident and that it would require them to leave students to respond to it.
Other speakers from the panel pointed out that having a certified, trained SRO was the right way to go. The individual would be trained to handle stressful situations with years of experience handling weapons and responding to dire situations.
Mineral County Sheriff Wetherill provided several points of statistical data that showed having an SRO on scene at a school prevented shooters from even attempting to attack the school. He also pointed out the response time for his team of officers stating that it could be anywhere from three to five minutes before an officer could reach the school due to the rural nature of Creede.
At the end of the panel discussion, members of the public spoke with varying sides of the conversation but one thing stood out. The attending audience and board members were relieved and inspired by the conversation knowing that student safety in the Creede community was paramount.
The district will continue to host this conversation until a decision can be reached and will continue working with local law enforcement and school safety professionals to find a solution to the issue at hand.