El Diablo May 14, 2018

In the wake of nationally covered shootings such as in Parkland, FL, and the shooting closer to home in Aztec, NM, the Durango 9R school district district, students, parents, and community members are evaluating new security measures in order to create the safest and most reasonable atmosphere at DHS.

The conflicting opinions on safety have forced all options to be explored. Some groups advocate for drastic reforms, such as Parents for Safer Schools, which has put forward a four-pronged approach that they believe will make schools all options to be explored, some proving to be more popular than others. Their top priorities consist of metal detectors, a closed campus at DHS, armed officers, and installing a visitor management security system.

Tim Maher, the spokesperson for the group, finds that metal detectors have the most potential to increase the security of DHS. “When you look at the statistics, only one school shooting has occurred at a school with metal detectors,” said Maher.  

Maher believes that the biggest reason to close DHS’ campus for lunch is that metal detectors would make entry to the school more difficult and time consuming, so it would make sense to not let students out of school for lunch. He acknowledges that it’s unpleasant to give up 50 minutes of personal freedom, but maintains that it’s an  important piece of the puzzle to make DHS safer.

“If 90% of schools out there can deal with a closed campus, we can to,” said Maher.

Maher’s statistics are based on a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, but similar studies failed to corroborate these numbers. Some estimates place the number of high schools with closed campuses at 60-70%.

Dan Snowberger, 9R superintendent, has a different opinion than Parents For Safer Schools. He finds that metal detectors have little effect on school security, and that the associated logistical problems clearly outweigh the limited benefits that they offer.

“When you look at the number of people who are on campus after hours, the idea of metal detectors in operation at all times of the day is really not a feasible option,” said Snowberger.

In addition, Snowberger points to other organizations that use metal detectors to show that they are ineffective as security measures.

“When you look at the TSA and their metal detector approach,” said Snowberger, “they fail to up to 90% of the time.”

Instead, the Superintendent has pursued measures such as ballistic film on windows and increased security staff to make DHS and other schools around the district safer.

The statistics that Snowberger cites here originate from an experiment that the Department of Homeland Security conducted, where agents from the department smuggled weapons and contraband past the TSA. They successfully smuggled weapons and explosives past the TSA metal detectors and personnel 95% of the time.

Meanwhile, Durango 9R’s Safety and Security Coordinator, Kathy Morris, is exploring all of the possibilities in order to keep DHS a safe area of learning. Instead of having a completely closed campus, Morris proposed that only ninth graders should have a closed campus.

“We need to trust our kids, [but] should ninth graders come in and be given something that they haven’t earned? Incoming ninth graders need to earn their right as the rest of the upperclassmen have earned just by being here,” said Morris. “It is about coming in first year into a high school, there are some things that you have to earn: respect. You need a year of getting your feet on the ground and understand the expectations of your academic goals, athletic goals, social goals.”

Morris also strongly believes that the students need to have a voice in these decisions because it is their school and they know what is going everyday. Adults try to understand what is going on, but students are the only ones that are truly aware of the situations and actions at school.

“It is your school! What do you guys need? What do you guys want?” Morris exclaimed. “This is your campus, you need to keep it safe…what is keeping you safe is you guys.”

The PSS group is experiencing a significant amount of pushback from students revolving around closed campus. So. Emmy Romero expresses concerns deeper that just losing the ability to be able to leave for lunch.

“I am against closed campus [because] there wouldn’t be any clubs, because it would be [that] each grade has a different lunch and it’s not possible that our school would be able to have all grades have the same lunch, we don’t have that space. There would be a lot more tension if the whole grade was in one area at one time every single day,” said Romero.

Based on a survey done at DHS less than a third of the staff supported a closed campus. A closed campus would significantly change the atmosphere at DHS, according to students due to rising conflicts, as a result of these unwanted changes and the pent up tension of being in a confined space new issues may arise.

“I feel like we would be more divided if we had closed campus because if you have friends in different grades you won’t be able to see them at lunch time, if you have a sibling you’re  not going to be able to go out to lunch with them,” Romero said.

Definite changes have yet to be enacted- but as new options are explored, students should continue to express their concerns in order to keep DHS safe.

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