School security

As superintendent says, teachers already have responsibility to instruct

Building security in Durango School District 9-R was the subject of a series of three Durango Herald articles that appeared last week, and we like what we read.

The school district is doing it correctly.

With a good working relationship with law enforcement, there are periodic thorough critiques of physical building security, practice fire and lockdown drills, and reminders to school staff members about the importance of being alert. Four city police resource officers full time and a sheriff’s deputy part-time are in the district schools. They know school classroom layouts and observe drills, but they also know the administrators and are familiar with school routines. That could be immensely helpful in emergencies.

School officials see no need for arming administrators and teachers, which we applaud. As Superintendent Dan Snowberger said, teachers already have a sufficiently large responsibility for delivering quality instruction.

Neither is Durango Police Chief Jim Spratlen an advocate for guns in the schools. An example of his concern is that an infrequently trained teacher with a gun might not quickly recognize an officer out of uniform.

Those in law enforcement, and in the military, know that competence with a weapon requires considerable initial training and regular retraining. It also requires an individual to learn to be alert, almost as second nature, to recognizing an unfolding threat. Teaching is not a profession that makes it possible to acquire and maintain that awareness. As others have said, teachers are not good first responders.

The Herald’s series did include some educators’ comments about the uncertainty of knowing the correct balance between physical security, and a more open environment that reflects healthy trust and sharing and is more conducive to learning. That line can vary from school to school and change from time to time depending on circumstances, but we are encouraged that this district’s leadership does want anything resembling the fortress environment that sometimes envelopes large city schools.

The key to school safety is a close relationship with the experts in safety, those who are trained to practice it every day. School District 9-R has that.