Our View: DougCo School Safety Idea Deserves Support

December 25, 2012
By

We’re encouraged by the steps being taken by the Douglas County School District in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy

If an armed police officer had been at Sandy Hook Elementary School the morning of Dec. 14, eating breakfast or filling out paperwork in the cafeteria, would the outcome have been the same?

We’ll never know, of course, but it stands to reason that the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting would have stood a better chance if somebody other than the bad guy had carried a gun that horrific morning.

That’s why we’re encouraged by the steps being taken by the Douglas County School District in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy. The first school day after the shooting, superintendent Elizabeth Fagen convened a meeting of law-enforcement officials in Douglas County, brainstormed about innovations and initiatives aimed at protecting kids, and then sent out an email to parents outlining a concrete plan of action for dealing with school shootings.

The plan, drawn up with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and three city police departments, includes several provisions designed to bring a greater police presence to district schools without breaking the bank or turning classrooms into armed camps.

Starting immediately, the district is providing free school lunches to any police officer or deputy who stops by the cafeteria of any school. The district is also inviting on-duty officers to work on their reports and other paperwork on campus, instead of at their offices or elsewhere, thus “providing an increased law enforcement presence at our schools,” said Fagen.

In addition, the district has established a safety committee to evaluate the idea of a school-marshal program modeled along the lines of the air-marshal program used by the airlines. The armed, plain-clothes marshals would cover an undisclosed number of schools, but one marshal would make an appearance at each school each day.

“These marshals would likely be police officers with current training, etc.,” said Fagen in the email, adding that “This is a joint project that will take some time to put together and implement well.”

The district is looking at other measures, including building improvements and teacher training, but the decision to increase the presence of armed officers shows that district officials are serious about school safety.

Legislators in Washington and Denver are expected to consider restrictions on access to firearms in the next few months. Gov. John Hickenlooper has already proposed expanding the state’s mental-health services and making it more difficult for those with psychiatric problems to buy guns.

As Coloradans know all too well, however, none of these measures is guaranteed to stop a madman from getting his hands on a gun. Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were too young to buy guns, so they had their friends do it for them. Sandy Hook murderer Adam Lanza stole his mother’s firearms after shooting her.

While the facts of Sandy Hook are still emerging, we know from Columbine that these deranged killers are careful planners.  They pick meaningful dates and target their assaults on the defenseless and the innocent. They know they are unlikely to meet resistance within gun-free school zones.

Given these realities, schools need to be prepared both to play defense and spread the word that they’re no longer sitting ducks. Inviting armed officers to campus as regular visitors sends the signal that Douglas County schools are no longer willing to depend on the fiction of the gun-free zone for their safety.  Other Colorado schools would do well to follow their lead.

 

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

5 Responses to Our View: DougCo School Safety Idea Deserves Support

  1. Steve Dorman
    December 27, 2012 at 10:48 am

    The mere announcement that teachers and staff may or may not be armed would have the same deterence. Of course that is predicated on actually allowing trained staff to carry concealed. Put up signs with the warning “Armed violence on these premises will be met with lethal opposition.”

  2. Pastor Jim Singleton
    December 27, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    As a retired Colorado Correctional Supervisor and current Pastor of Bread of Life Church Pueblo I have put much thought into this problem, Douglas County should be greatly commended for these great steps, these should be looked at nationally.
    I believe that one more innovation should be looked at, teacher volunteers should be recruited to attend the police academy and then in addition to their teaching duties become undercover marshalls, the goal should be to have least two teacher marshalls per school. These teachers should remain strictly undercover and to alleviate public concern over gun safety have chip implanted firearms that can only be used by the assigned deputy!
    Thanks again for the great work in Douglas County, and great reporting by the Colorado Observer

  3. Pat Perlinger
    January 14, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Asking Cops to do their paperwork etc., on campus sure seems like a great idea to me.
    Pat Perlinger

  4. January 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    As a retired police officer myself, I have to say someone was really thinking here. There is an old joke among cops about never turning down a free meal. But seriously, this is a real step in the right direction. Just having that marked police car parked out front will be a great deterrent. Now we need to look into the use of police and sheriff reserves and the Colorado Rangers for further staffing at the schools.

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