ALAMOSA — On a warm fall afternoon in mid-September 2022, parents of students at Alamosa High School panicked as word that the school had an “active shooter” spread like wildfire throughout the community. rice field. A message was sent to the parent and Alamosa Police Department said he was on the scene within two minutes.
It turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by some strangers, again for unknown reasons, and a hoax that was also “played” at several other schools in the state on the same day. bottom.
Alamosa School District (ASD) Superintendent Diana Jones and Vice Superintendent Luis Murillo said debriefing sessions held after the event showed that the response protocols they had in place worked.
Murillo told the Valley Courier: “And in a very real test, the Alamosa Police Department responded within two minutes, an impressive time.”
However, it was clear to both Jones and Murillo that additional measures were needed on top of what was already being done to further ensure the safety of ASD students and staff.
Though unthinkable a decade ago, school shootings are no longer an unimaginable event in the United States. According to a report published by the independent, nonpartisan K-12 School Shooting Database Project, 2022 will see 257 reported incidents by October 29, 2022, with more school shootings than in the previous year. An incident has occurred. This surpassed the 250 school shootings. All in 2021.
But Jones and Murillo didn’t need the data to prove what they already believed, so they included the data as part of their fundamental approach to the ASD community.
“Safety — the safety of all students and staff — is one of our top priorities,” says Murillo.
As a result, over the past few months, Jones, Murillo, and the ASD Board of Education (BOE) have been considering options for providing security in school districts. Training staff to provide security for ASD was one option, but finding the time to build a program that included the necessary training was a difficult task with an academic year already underway and events and obligations already packed. I had a problem with my school calendar.
The second option was to hire a private security company. The option was explored by Scott Honeycutt, ASD’s Director of Transportation and Safety, who presented it to BOE in December.
The BOE voted Thursday night to “contract with an armed security company to provide armed security on all campuses for the second semester,” Jones said.
All campuses include K-2, 3-5, Ortega Middle School, Alamosa High School, and Alternative Education Schools. Security personnel will also attend the event, subject to funding and staff availability. Additional armed guards are contracted to “walk around” and assist as needed.
In addition to being responsible for security against those who pose a serious threat to students and staff, individuals working at each school should interact and engage with students, build relationships with students and staff, Intervene in any situation. escalated to the point where intervention at that time was deemed necessary.
The program is reviewed on an ongoing basis and at the end of the semester, after which more permanent plans are evaluated.
Thursday night’s vote was not, in itself, the beginning of the security program. Precautionary measures are already in place, including locking doors at all schools and having someone at the door to determine who is allowed in. Students are also told to leave their backpacks in a locker so that they do not get in the way if the student needs to leave the area immediately. We are doing down training.
Generally speaking, ASD safety protocols are based on the model provided by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation. The foundation offers programs developed through research-based best practices of school administrators, psychologists, public space safety professionals, families, and first responders.
The school also obtained infrastructure funding to support teachers and staff in the event of an incident.
Thanks to funding from the School Access for Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, staff can work directly with APD dispatches, including learning how to “talk the talk” to communicate with dispatchers in the most effective and efficient way. A talkable radio was purchased.
The district has also introduced a “Red Bag” program that provides each classroom with a red bag of medical supplies and an app that allows teachers to scan their mobile phones for updates on the situation as a crisis. in progress. The Red Bag Program also provides agents with the opportunity to be informed of what is happening.
However, long before September 19, ASD was identified in students who may have felt excluded or bullied at school, and long before potentially violent situations occurred. The focus was on providing broad holistic support that is most likely to intervene for other students in need.
“Safety has many definitions,” says Murillo.
The school district is now fully staffed with onsite counselors. Two in K-12, three in 3-5, three in Ortega Middle School, three in Alamosa High School, and one in Alternative School. They also have interventions for students exhibiting disruptive or inappropriate behavior, as well as “recovery programs” with deliberate strategies to help students feel valued and part of the school community. are practicing Professionals are hired to work with teachers to help them implement several strategies in the classroom and the perceived signs of trauma that can manifest in a variety of ways.
When Jones and Murillo were first hired as leaders in the Alamosa School District, they often talked about a basic “everything means everything” approach. That same holistic approach is reflected in our commitment to safety by creating a program that begins long before a potentially violent situation occurs and continues through our response to the crisis if it does occur. The last part of their approach is hopefully one that will only be practiced and never used.