The Durango School District 9-R board has decided not to arm school security guards with firearms after months of heated community debate.
A statement from board members released Thursday said they decided not to arm school guards after holding two community meetings and reviewing research, survey results, letters to the board, and existing and future security measures.
“There had not been conclusive evidence that supported a decision to arm security specialists,” said board member Marianna Valdez.
The board made the informal decision during a work session Tuesday night, and Superintendent Dan Snowberger released a statement in response to follow-up questions from The Durango Herald.
The board took up the idea of arming guards at the request of community members.
“It is clear on this one issue our community is equally split,” Snowberger said in an email to the Herald. “That does not take away the value of each person’s opinion or position. It is clear that our community is passionate about the safety of our students, and for that, the board and I are grateful.”
9-R parent Bret Metz said he opposes the board’s decision not to arm security guards, saying he has not been presented with a better solution to keeping students safe.
“They are voting against the one solution we have,” he said.
Gun safety advocate Dr. Sarah Goodpastor said she is pleased the 9-R board decided to follow the recommendations of law enforcement.
This fall, Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer and other law enforcement officers cautioned the 9-R board against arming civilian security officers with firearms. The law enforcement officials favored hiring additional police officers who would work in schools as school resource officers instead.
Goodpastor said she also supported school resource officers and putting in additional school security measures, such as vestibules.
“I hope as a community we will find the funds to protect our schools,” she said.
The district’s announcement followed a survey of community members, school staff and students about school security and arming school security guards that garnered 1,553 responses.
The survey showed respondents supported arming school security guards 51.7% to 48.3%. The question explained the security guards would be former police officers who would be highly trained in firearm use.
Data from subsets of the community showed teachers and students opposed the measure, while administrators, support staff, parents and community members supported it.
Snowberger said the board also considered written comments on arming security guards to guide its decision.
“This Board of Education takes the issue of school safety and security very seriously and in no way simply sought a slight majority opinion to make such an important decision,” he said in an email.
Durango School District 9-R conducted a survey to gauge levels of support or opposition to certain school security measures, including arming school security guards. The online survey garnered more than 1,500 responses, although not everyone answered every question. Following is how respondents answered a question about arming guards:
50 students opposed the measure, and 34 supported it.
114 teachers opposed the measure, and 72 supported it.
62 support staff favored the measure, and 38 opposed it.
11 administrators supported the measure, and 8 opposed it.
113 community members supported the measure, and 105 opposed it.
392 parents supported the measure, and 336 opposed it.
Not every respondent identified with one of the subgroups listed here.