The Durango School District 9-R board decided not to make a decision Monday night about whether to arm district employees with guns.
The board was weighing a resolution that would have declared the district’s intent to permit employees to be designated as security officers and allow them to carry concealed weapons.
The district’s intent would be to arm employees in security roles with no other responsibilities, said Kathy Morris, safety and security officer for the district.
School officials are not considering arming teachers, Superintendent Dan Snowberger said.
Several concerned parents and other community members called on the district to take more time with the decision and consider the scientific evidence supporting arming school staff.
“I believe in having this be a truly democratic process,” said Maya Kane, a parent and an attorney. She said she spoke on behalf of 12 other parents who were distressed about not having a chance to speak about the issue. The district had not communicated directly with parents about the resolution.
“If we had the chance to be here, we would be here en masse,” said Kane, a member of a small but impassioned crowd.
Several board members said the draft resolution on the agenda for a vote was a way for the group to discuss the measure, but they never intended to take action without more outreach.
Board President Nancy Stubbs said she wants to learn more facts about the issue to help inform a decision about a topic that can be driven by emotion.
“It’s something that many schools across the country are doing,” she said. “You have look and see if it’s appropriate for our schools.”
Arming school district employees has been brought up as part of meetings about school safety for two years, she said. Those meetings have reached a sampling of community members, district staff and others.
To get additional feedback, Snowberger recommended a survey at the beginning of the year.
“It’s not something we believe we should rush into,” he said.
The last survey the district completed about the issue found a third of the community supported arming school employees, he said.
However, the district has continued to hear about the importance of arming school staff from parents who are concerned about moments when no police officers are on a school’s campus to respond to emergencies, he said.
“That’s their rationale for saying we should consider something,” he said.
The district is not on a timeline to make a decision about arming security officers, Morris said.
However, the board did review a document Monday outlining the possible minimum requirements security officers would have meet.
The district drafted standards for security officers in response to shootings at Arapahoe, Platte Canyon and Columbine high schools, and most recently the STEM School in Denver, district documents say.
The district may require candidates applying to be a security officer to complete a 24-hour firearms training within the previous 12 months, at a minimum.
The training would include six hours of live fire range exercises and six hours of school active-shooter training, according to a document outlining the proposed standards.
Board member Stephanie Moran said she would like to see law enforcement experience be a requirement for security officers allowed to carry guns on campuses.
Some attendees questioned whether arming a school staff member would increase safety for students.
Maria Doucette, a parent, said in an interview that airports see far fewer shootings than other settings because far fewer guns are allowed in those facilities.
“We need evidence-based solutions, not fairy tales,” she told the board.
Nationally, support for arming school staff is split. A report by the Federal Commission on School Safety backs guns in schools. It also outlined instances where schools and states have chosen to allow school staff to carry guns. For example, in Florida a school employee who does not work exclusively in the classroom can carry a weapon after receiving 176 hours of training.
In one case, a district in Arkansas decided to arm school staff because it would take law enforcement 20 to 30 minutes to respond, the report said.
A plan to increase school safety backed by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers warns against arming school staff.
Highly trained police officers see their ability to shoot accurately decrease when they are involved in gunfights, the plan says.
“The notion that a teacher or school staff member will be able to effectively respond to an active shooter incident is extremely doubtful,” the plan says.