Park Elementary Principal Scott Cooper said Friday that school officials are taking seriously recent reports of
children being approached by strangers.
"I'm not going to let a kid get taken from our playground," said Cooper, whose son attends preschool at Park. "No
way. I'm out there every day. We've got teachers out there everyday. That's not something I'm going to let happen."
The staff at Park Elementary has been placed on high alert, and volunteer parents are helping with extra supervision
during student dismissal times. Cooper said details about the recent reports are on file with the Durango Police
One child at Park Elementary reported being asked by an adult male through the school's playground fence to leave
with him. About four days later, a different child reported a similar story.
Two Park students also reported a woman in a silver sedan pulled over while the children were walking in the Durango
West II neighborhood and asked if they needed a ride to school.
In response to the reports, Cooper sent parents a letter asking them to empower their children by discussing the
danger of strangers, and included some suggested discussion topics. The letter was dated Nov. 6 and went to the
parents of Park's approximately 450 students.
Though Cooper says he's "nervous" about the threat, he thinks the odds are long that an active child predator is
stalking Durango streets.
The episodes, he said, provide an opportunity for him and his staff to review and revise safety procedures, and to
raise awareness among parents that Durango, in spite of some popular assumptions, is still an urban environment, susceptible to many of the same crime problems as larger towns and cities.
Since Cooper sent the letter, parents have been running down rumors about the reports. He said some parents called
him after hearing stories that children at Park were grabbed by strangers and even that children were carried away.
One person e-mailed the Herald asking about reports of a man with different colored eyes attempting to get a child at
Park Elementary to return with him to his van.
To address parent concerns, Cooper cleared the schedule of a pre-arranged parent-teacher meeting Monday at Park to
discuss safety issues. About 50 parents, 10 teachers and representatives from the Durango Police Department, School
District 9-R and city of Durango attended the meeting. Park's playground is operated jointly with the city's
Department of Parks and Recreation. Cooper said the meeting was emotional.
"A lot of parents never dreamed that this could happen in a town like this," he said.