Dear Mr. Snowberger, School Board Members, and Concerned City Council Members,
We are writing regarding our current concerns around school safety, in particularly Durango High School.
We all need to work together to get this figured out for our currently very underprotected most vulnerable population of school children. Decisions for change need to be made and actions need to be taken. Durango has a lot of catching up to do to keep up with the dangers of today’s world, unfortunately.
We are members of Parents for Safer Schools and several of us are also on the 9R Safety Task Force Committee. There are many improvements underway, but we feel some of the most important key items to protect our children have yet to be completed, in particularly at DHS, which houses the largest majority of our 9R students/staff in one location, at over 1000 students, and over 130 staff members. DHS is currently our largest and most vulnerable school population.
Items of most urgency include:
1. Armed police officers and/or armed security guards, a minimum of 2 full time and 3 at higher risk times/days – employed no later than Fall of 2019.
(DHS currently only has a few UNARMED “security guards”. There are 2 armed police officers that monitor ALL of the 9R schools – so they could be anywhere at anytime during the school day at one of the various 12 schools. There is currently no armed officer on the DHS campus on a routine basis. We all know that the only thing that can stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun. Our community children deserve protection! You may have read about some of the recent school shootings during which students were forced to sacrifice themselves/their bodies to try to stop shooters. Too many defenseless students have died needlessly this way. We need armed security FULL TIME at DHS ASAP! IF our students have to wait for an “armed” officer to arrive on the scene to stop a shooter then countless lives will be lost during that time.)
2. All outside doors secured and alarmed. (We understand that perhaps one back door would need to be “unalarmed” to allow for access in and out to the athletic fields. This door should be guarded and monitored at all times. There are over 50 exits/entrances around the school that are currently vulnerable points of entry. They are not alarmed, not guarded, not secured. They can easily be propped open, and opened to allow others to enter at anytime, without detection.)
3. Vestibule Construction prioritized for DHS (We have money for this now, from recent grant funds, but currently plans are in the works to do vestibules for 2 elementary schools in the district first, however, these schools are at much lower risk than DHS and those schools are already locked campuses while DHS is currently an unlocked unsecured open campus. Anyone can walk in the unlocked unsecured doors at DHS at anytime. We should eventually complete vestibules at all of our schools, as time and funds allow, but it should be completed at our most vulnerable highest risk with the highest population school first.) From the National School Boards Association: “One of the biggest things schools should be focusing on right now is access control, according to Timm. All buildings today should have a single point of entry. There should be a secure vestibule at the main entrance and all doors must latch and lock properly.
Many schools have vestibules at the main entrance, but they aren’t secure because schools permit visitors to immediately access the main office or the building in general. A secure vestibule allows a visitor to come through an initial door, but they cannot enter the next set of locked doors until they are authorized by main office personnel.”
There are many additional safety and security items to consider, however, these basics are the bare minimums of highest priority in regards to our currently most vulnerable population at DHS and should be considered essential to offer our community children a safe and secure learning environment. The vast majority of high schools across our country have already implemented these basic changes along with many more layers of protection.
While we are all concerned about the safety of all of children in the district at all of our schools including all of the elementary and middle schools, we are in particularly concerned about the safety of all at DHS due to numerous facts that make DHS a high risk population at a high risk location.
Facts that contribute to DHS being our highest risk school for school violence to occur are listed below. It should be a priority in terms of secure reliable protection for the over 1000 students that attend the school (as well as all of the staff members, teaching personnel, and children in the daycare):
1. The majority of school shootings have occurred at the high school level.
2. Teens are at highest risk for depression, suicide, drug use, and bullying which all increase the risk to their safety and increase the risk for them to carry out an unsafe act. Here are the facts on what age groups are at highest risk to be involved in a school shooting from the homeland security database.
3. DHS has Axis mental health care in house and the multiple adults coming and going from Axis is a huge concern for safety.
4. PCC (Pueblo Community College) is located inside of the DHS building with adult aged students which has opened up several safety and security issues for our high school students. They also share a parking lot with the DHS students.
5. DHS is currently the ONLY UNLOCKED/open school campus, all of the elementary and middle schools are at least locked and closed campuses.
6. Child care (recently added)at DHS. There is now a child care center housed inside DHS for babies and children of DHS staff who also deserve protection and add to our numbers of those deserving protection.
7. Fairgrounds is a concern for safety as the Durango PD have discovered homeless folks and illegal activity on and around the fairgrounds, also the fairgrounds sometimes shares the same parking lot as Durango High School.
8. Several Motels; located in close proximity to DHS are a concern for safety as illegal drug making and other illegal activities occur at these nearby locations.
9. Rank Park is located behind DHS and students are found skipping school and doing illegal activity in this area and it offers an easy hideout location for potential predators.
10. DHS is located on Main Street/ HWY 550, a main hwy in and out of Durango, increasing its’ vulnerability to anyone from anywhere passing through Durango.
11. There have been notifications of different individuals that have gained access easily to the school on different occasions that should not be there.
Unfortunately, this is not a problem that is going away. In fact, 2018 was the highest on record thus far, according to the department of homeland security, for school shooting incidents and deaths. Number of incidents by the year.
Here is a graph which makes the case for increased needed armed security during the beginning of the day, at lunch, and at the end of the day.
The Homeland security database has provided helpful statistics on school shootings. The data can be interpreted in many ways, they gathered data based on the following definition of a school shooting:
“Based on the differences among all available reporting platforms, there is currently no single
source for objective and accessible data from which school administrators, law enforcement, and public officials can draw to inform their decisions. As a result, there is a need for a widely inclusive K-12 school shooting database that documents each and every instance in which a gun is brandished, fired, or a bullet hits school property 5,6,7 for any reason, regardless of the number of victims (including zero), time, day of the week, or reason (e.g., planned attack, accidental, domestic violence, gang-related). The breadth of this dataset would allow for a comprehensive view of the issue while providing users with the ability to filter between specific subsets within the data (e.g.,number of victims, pre-planning, and type of weapon used).
Here is data on fatal shootings only.
Safe to Tell link
Final Report from the Federal Commission on School Safety
See Page 122: ” Access Controls—Limited Entry Points: As all of the experts testifying during the Commission’s August 23 field visit to Miley Achievement Center in Las Vegas, NV, acknowledged, denying intruders and attackers access to school campuses and buildings is a key line of defense. It begins at the entrance to the school’s campus or building.31 Entry control measures limit the number of access points, allow access only to those who should be on the campus, and provide an opportunity to conduct searches of suspicious items or persons. Having entry controls in place can deter individuals from initiating violent attacks, detect attacks earlier from a safe distance, and delay attackers from reaching vulnerable locations or densely populated areas. By applying the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, schools can implement security measures such as fencing, bollards, planters, curbs, or walls to create a single point of entry to the campus, for both vehicles and pedestrians. This allows school staff to more effectively monitor every individual who comes onto the campus.32 For example, the new Sandy Hook Elementary School is designed with a rain garden with three footbridges”
Thank you for your time and support!!
– Parents for Safer Schools