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All of us must contribute to the safety of our students

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Friday, March 9, 2018 3:38 PM

We’ve all been shocked at the repeated occurrence of school violence across our nation and want to find solutions to protect our children while at school.

Twenty years ago, no one could have imagined someone entering a movie theater, a Walmart or an airport with the sole intent of taking life. As we cannot ascertain the direct causes of these violent acts, we want to work with residents of our community to find ways of reducing the risk here.

This is an emotionally charged issue and one that has taken hold in Durango, as in countless other communities. There is a critical need for dialogue and listening to each other. I continue to reference my concern with the lack of civility as different ideas are expressed in all matters “America” today. I hope that as we process options for security, we continue to listen to each other to forge a plan that further strengthens safety and security around our schools.

The range of options to fortify our schools is extensive, and many community members have expressed that money can’t be an obstacle when making these decisions. I am proud of the safety and security protocols currently in place in our buildings, which are not all discernible, as sharing them publicly could compromise many of these measures.

All our middle and elementary schools are fully secured with a video buzzer at the entrance, and we have full-time security staff who monitor and protect our middle and high schools. These staff members work along with school resource officers, who also serve our elementary schools.

All 9-R staff and students participate in regular drills. Safe2Tell programs are heavily promoted and used by our community to report concerns anonymously. Students, parents and staff alike all have personal responsibility to participate in and support these security measures.

In the coming months, we will continue to work with members of our community to strengthen our existing systems and security measures. Demands for closing the high school campus, installing metal detectors and arming teachers are occurring – all while opposition to such enhanced measures is expressed. It’s my hope that parents and students participate in these conversations as we search to provide even safer schools that create a positive learning environment for students.

There have been calls for student walkouts to exercise their voice on this issue. While I strongly support our students having a voice, I encourage that we find safe opportunities to do so. Walking out of school in the middle of the school day only exposes students to potential danger.

Middle and high schools are offering opportunities within the school for students to gather and show their respect for their national peers, while revisiting safety procedures. Secondary students will not be prevented from leaving campus if they choose to do so, however, parents will be contacted to ensure their awareness, and our regular attendance policies apply here as with any other absence. Parents, please let your student know your expectations in advance.

Our community is providing an opportunity for all to participate and demonstrate unity in standing up against school violence. The “March For Our Lives” event being planned by students and community members is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. March 24. Rotary Park will be the final destination, where Durango High School and Animas High School students will present a program for fellow marchers that will include music and short speeches. This provides a terrific opportunity to engage in the conversation with our students.

As a 9-R parent, I want the best for our children. Our safety measures are strong, and we continue to reflect and respond to all community feedback. It takes us all to ensure the safety of our students, and we can’t underestimate the role of our students in this process. Thank you for being an active participant. I stand ready to engage in the conversation with you.

Email Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at dsnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.

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