School safety teams and school resource officers have been in the spotlight a lot lately.
Jeff Pierson, executive director for the Department of School Safety at Jeffco Public Schools, said they are the gold standard for school safety. He said they have to be after a few shootings took place in their communities, starting with Columbine.
“We’re the gold standard. But when you think about the other districts around, we support them as much as we can. We’ve been forced into being the number one and setting the bar very high for the expectation we have for our community,” Pierson said.
Jeffco said they partner with law enforcement to provide SROs, but the district said its safety strategy goes beyond SROs.
“So, the partnership with the SROs in our team is so important right there. The law enforcement agencies provide those SROs for us, and then we train and we partner together for the emergency management piece and security in our buildings, and ensure that the schools are safe,” said Pierson. “The SROs are a part of what we do. They don’t necessarily come to our internal training, but we meet with them quarterly throughout the year with their supervisors.”
They have their own school safety team who are trained. They run different scenarios, and school principals are in on the training too so that everyone is hearing the same consistent message to avoid incidents like Uvalde.
“What we’ve seen across the nation is multiple opportunities where the system in place failed, where individuals weren’t sure who was in charge or who was going to make certain decisions. We don’t want that to happen here in Jeffco. So we trained specifically to ensure that every responsibility is taken seriously and everybody has a responsibility when they show up to include the Incident Management System we operate under, and then directly unified command with law enforcement,” said Pierson.
Jeffco said the training center has been a huge asset to help with training in a familiar elementary school environment, but they are looking to see if they can expand their training in a high school environment as well.
Jeffco has more than 145 security staff members who work 24 hours just protecting schools, that includes campus security officers, patrol officers, emergency dispatchers, and a threat management team.
They currently train all principals at all grade levels at the Frank DeAngelis Community Safety Center. The principals share that information with facility managers and secretaries as well.
FOX31’s cameras were rolling during one of the trainings.
“We give them scenarios and we work through it with them, challenge them to think through situations. We won’t talk about tactics necessarily, but the intel that they get through that and the training they get to tabletop a scenario gives them the understanding to be prepared, and challenge them to think if this is my building, and this particular incident happens at my building, what does that look like for me who’s going to make decisions? And how do I operate through my SRT, my school resource team, to make sure decisions are being made on the fly?” Pierson said.
Jeffco said they are not only focusing on response in an emergency but also prevention, making sure kids are understood and have all the resources they need and fostering a supportive culture ahead of an incident.