Durango School District 9-R is asking parents, students, staff and community members to weigh in on new school security measures – such as arming school security guards, paying for school resource officers and other measures – via an online survey.
The survey went up on the district’s website Friday and will be open until Nov. 1, said 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp. As of Monday, the survey had received more than 500 responses, she said.
The 9-R school board plans to take the survey into account before voting on whether to arm school security officers in November, board members have said previously. The board has also held two community forums to seek feedback on school security, and it is examining outside research.
The survey asks 10 questions including: “Do you approve of Durango School District 9-R employing armed School Security Specialists in the schools who were former police officers, are highly trained in firearm use and meet the requirements outlined above? (These individuals currently cost the district an average of $60,000-$65,000 in salary, benefits, equipment and training.)”
An armed security guard would be required to have five years of experience in law enforcement and the guard would continue to train as a law enforcement officer, according the survey.
The survey also asks residents whether the district should pay for additional school resource officers, which would be employed by the Durango Police Department.
Brett Metz, a parent, said after attending a 9-R forum about school security, he came to support arming security guards in school because he had not been presented with another viable solution for keeping students safe.
The district has only two school resources officers in town, he said, and many deaths can happen while schools are waiting for law enforcement to respond to an emergency. Ballistic film on windows and locked doors can’t prevent shooters from entering schools, Metz said.
“To stop deadly force, such as a school shooter, an armed officer would have a distinct advantage to stop the assailant,” he said in an email to The Durango Herald.
Gun safety advocate Dr. Sarah Goodpastor said she is concerned armed security guards in schools might provide a false sense of security and introduce the risk of additional harm.
“We want to be able to react, but the reality is most devastating school shootings are over in 30 to 45 seconds,” she said. It is unlikely an armed guard would be in the right part of the building to stop a shooter, she said.
Goodpastor said she supports a public education campaign to educate gun owners about properly securing weapons, because a large majority of the weapons used in school shootings were stored in unsecured locations in homes, she said.
“If we don’t reduce where the weapons are coming from, then we have left out a major portion of the equation,” she said. Goodpastor said she plans to present information on Be SMART, a public information campaign about gun safety and storage, to the 9-R board this week. She would like to see information about gun safety distributed through the district.
Robin Holleran, a local advocate with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, has also organized a formal petition against arming staff members of 9-R. She has collected about 500 signatures in support of the petition, she said.
“What we’re hoping for is to be able to pivot from the idea that: ‘More guns is going to create a safety,’ to one of: ‘Let’s figure out how we can educate people so that access (to guns) is limited,’” she said.
The results of 9-R’s survey will be made public on the district’s website after it closes, Popp said.
To take the 9-R survey, visit durangoschools.org.