STEM School, Douglas County sheriff had dispute over school resource officer

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. -- Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said Friday that a contract dispute led to STEM School Highlands Ranch not having an on-duty school resource officer on campus.

Spurlock said the sheriff's office had a previous agreement with STEM and Skyview Academy, another charter school in Highlands Ranch. The two schools shared an SRO and split the costs of the officer three ways: each school paid 25 percent and the sheriff's office paid the remaining 50 percent.

However, in April 2018, the SRO became ill and was placed on modified duty.

"Every effort was made to have other SROs, deputies and supervisors cover his duties, until the close of the school year in May," Spurlock wrote.

In mid-May, the STEM School requested Spurlock reimburse the school for part of the funds it put toward the SRO for the months he was out sick. Spurlock said the school also voiced concerns about their service expectations not being met.

"The Sheriff addressed the concerns of the school by reiterating what the contract for services required the SRO to do and what was required to be provided by the school for him to perform his duties. The Sheriff felt that STEM School may not have been utilizing the SRO in alliance with the contract because their primary focus for the SRO every day was outside security and traffic control, not the above noted functions of a deputy sheriff, per the agreement," Spurlock said, having described the deputy's duties as the following:

  • "Provide education and counselling to faculty, staff, and students on law enforcement matters;
  • Coordinate matters of mutual law enforcement concerns between the schools and the Sheriff;
  • Investigate law enforcement and public safety issues, to include in-progress calls, serve as a first-responder as needed, investigate and follow up on criminal cases related to the schools and students, assist school administration regarding safety and security, assist with classroom presentations and mediation issues, work with parents regarding student problems, gather criminal intelligence involving juveniles and criminal activity.
  • The schools were also required to provide a secure office for the SRO with a telephone computer, since the duties of the SRO require them to conduct confidential investigations and protect student privacy."

STEM administration continued discussions with the sheriff's office about reaching an agreement for the 2018-2019 school year. However, they were unable to reach an agreement for an on-duty SRO.

"The Sheriff’s Office did not hear back from the STEM school except to hire off-duty deputies as traffic control.  The Sheriff’s Office also offered to provide our School Youth Education and Safety in Schools program, however this past year, those officers were not able to obtain the time in the STEM school due to no response from the school," Spurlock wrote.

A public relations agency representing STEM said the school's agreement with the sheriff's office lasted from 2013 until 2018.

"That partnership was excellent from our perspective, but we began to have challenges with the SRO assigned to us in 2018. We expressed our concerns directly to DCSO, and they offered us a better alternative to have a daily part-time, off-duty sheriff’s deputy with a squad car. We supplemented that with full-time private security services provided by BOSS High Level Protection. That combination gave us a significant increase in protection for our staff and students," the PR agency wrote in an email.

Law enforcement sources told FOX31 and Channel 2 that the BOSS security guard fired his weapon during the shooting. A bullet reportedly went past sheriff's deputies who entered the school.

The PR agency said the school's first priority has always been the safety of its students and staff.

"The unfortunate fact is that schools with and without SROs have experienced violence. With regard to the tragedy on May 7, 2019, we credit both the actions of our private security guard, the team of DCSO law enforcement officials who were on scene within two minutes, and the heroic students and staff members at STEM for minimizing the number of fatalities and casualties," the PR agency said.

RELATED: Full coverage of STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting

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