On a 4-1 vote Tuesday night, Peyton School District 23-JT’s board tabled a proposal to arm its staff.
Members could take up the issue at their September meeting, board President Jim Frohbieter said.
He thinks it will be approved.
“The board is behind it,” Frohbieter said. “It will happen, maybe next month, but I don’t know.”
Frohbieter cast the sole opposing vote to postpone a resolution that would allow staff, including teachers, to voluntarily be trained as security guards and carry concealed handguns on campus.
“All the resolution said was we needed to get started on this, and that’s what I think we should do,” he said. “It’s the first step.”
The four board members who put the idea on hold said they want more information on costs and to identify a concrete and possibly multilayered security plan.
The board now is obtaining bids for fencing the perimeter of school property with break-bar gates, which allow students inside the school to exit and prevent others from entering, Frohbieter said.
Pete Bates, a former board member who opposes arming staff, said he was happy about the board’s vote.
“They want to understand everything and be really pragmatic about it,” Bates said. “It seems most, if not all, board members are in favor, and I appreciate they’re trying to go through it in a very holistic way.”
Peyton would be the second district in the area to arm staff members. In December 2016, Hanover School District 28 became the first in the Pikes Peak region to approve a similar resolution.
Hanover D-28 Superintendent Grant Schmidt said some staff members have volunteered, received required training and “got in the process.”
Like Hanover, should Peyton enact a policy allowing staff to be armed by being deemed security guards — as state law allows — the identities of those participating will be kept confidential.
It could be the janitor, a bus driver, the office receptionist or a teacher.
In Hanover, 4-foot-by-8-foot signs in front of each building warn that staff may be armed and will do whatever is necessary to defend the school, Schmidt said.
“People have been making a big deal about it, but there are school districts all over the state that have done this,” Petyon’s Frohbieter said.
Employees from 25 of Colorado 178 school districts have either authorized staff to be armed or are in the process of doing so, having taken training through FASTER (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response) Colorado, said Laura Carno, executive director.
Carno, co-founder of Coloradans for Civil Liberties, started the active-shooter response training program last year with the Independence Institute, a Denver-based libertarian think tank.
Since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., “We’ve seen renewed interest, not just from districts, but also from parents wanting to make sure their kid’s schools is as safe as possible,” Carno said.
Parents, including a Colorado Springs police officer who asked not to be identified, brought the idea a few months ago to the small community of Peyton, 25 miles northeast of Colorado Springs. Two town hall meetings were held over the summer, and the board heard presentations from trainers.
The board considered the issue six years ago, when Bates was a member. After discussion, they axed the idea.
“Arming staff introduces risk to the school rather than prevents it,” Bates said. “We’re bringing weapons into the school, when I think we should be more focused on keeping weapons out of the school.”
Programs such as Carno’s, which provides advanced training taught by retired law enforcement officers, and another, I68 Consulting Group, which is based on a military style of training with Special Operations Forces instructors, seem “confident” and “good,” Bates said.
“My concern is that we’re asking teachers and staff members at a school to be very calm and collected in a real emergency situation, and that’s impossible to practice for,” he said.
Frohbieter said arming staff is “the final layer of defense” for rural schools such as Peyton, where an active-shooter drill in the spring revealed lengthy response times from emergency crews.
“The first responders were a pair of game wardens out of Ramah, who were armed, but they were 22 minutes out,” Frohbieter said. “The Sheriff’s Office was 40 minutes because of where we are located. It’s not anybody’s fault; it’s a fact of life.”
Results from a survey school administrators recently distributed to Peyton 23-JT employees and parents showed 70 percent approval for arming staff among both groups, he said.
“Not everybody’s happy about it, but the survey tells me we have the support of the majority of parents and staff,” Frohbieter said.
State Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-El Paso County, attended the June town hall to listen to the public.
“In some of these threatening situations, you have seconds and minutes to respond, and a half-hour to an hour to wait for help,” Lundeen said. “Having someone trained and skilled and willing to respond becomes necessary.”
Lundeen said he realizes an active-shooter situation is a scary scenario for all involved.
“Some people are concerned about bringing more arms into the environment, but the reality is you have to have protection in a timely fashion.”
Improving security can be costly for school districts, Lundeen said, which is why the Legislature passed a bipartisan bill last session, providing $30 million in grant funding for more training for school resource officers, training school staff in crisis response and improving the physical security of school buildings.
Peyton’s potential arming of staff would qualify for those funds, Lundeen said.
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