EducationGunsNewsPublic SafetySouthern Colorado

Another rural Colorado school district considers arming teachers, staff

Author: Debbie Kelley, The Gazette - July 31, 2018 - Updated: August 23, 2018

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(Photo by altmodern, istockphoto)

The Peyton School District could become the second rural district in El Paso County to arm teachers and other staff.

A father of a student in Peyton School District 23-JT, east of Colorado Springs, will propose Friday that trained volunteer employees carry concealed handguns on school property.

He’ll make his presentation at 7 p.m. Friday in the Peyton High School cafeteria, 13885 Bradshaw Road, in Peyton.

“The more people that would come to this, the better it would be, so they’d know and understand what the presenter is bringing forth,” said Superintendent Tim Kistler. “There’s always a lot of misconceptions when you say ‘arming staff.’ It may relieve some fears, or it may not.”

The movement gained momentum after an emergency drill this spring showed it would take the county Sheriff’s Office 35 to 40 minutes to reach the 630-pupil district, Kistler said Monday.

“The parent is saying if we could potentially lessen the potential injuries, it could be well worth it,” Kistler said. “It’s open for discussion about what that all might look like.”

About 90 people attended an initial town hall last month. Reasons cited for the proposal include the district’s remote location and budget limitations that provide an armed sheriff’s deputy on school campuses only one day a week.

No district employee would be required to carry a handgun; the program would be strictly voluntary, and volunteers would be vetted for suitability, according to the preliminary proposal.

“Some people are pretty excited about the potential of being able to protect students, if that’s what it comes down to,” Kistler said.

On the other hand, “There’s some nervousness, if you have somebody carrying on the school campus.”

The board of education heard a presentation Monday from FASTER (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response) Colorado. The organization last year started offering active-shooter training for educators statewide, in response to national school shootings.

Colorado law allows public school districts to designate staff as security officers and allow them to carry concealed handguns on campus, to respond in an active-shooter situation.

Boards set forth the policies and procedures, including required training and other rules as to how the policy will be carried out.

Hanover School District 28 became the first school district in El Paso and Teller counties to allow concealed handguns at school, when its board voted 3-2 in December 2016 to enable regular staff to be armed at school.

The policy was enacted last school, but the number and identity of staff who are carrying guns is kept confidential.

How many of Colorado’s 178 school districts have adopted such policies isn’t known.

The five-member Peyton 23-JT board has not put the item on an agenda, Kistler said, but he expects the board to eventually take up the matter.

“If the community is behind it and the staff is behind it, we know it’ll probably come to the board,” he said. “The discussion is going to have to happen.”

Some of the district’s nearly 50 teachers and 50 other employees have said they would volunteer to be armed and go through mandated training, Kistler said.

The proposal details a list of possible training requirements, including obtaining a concealed carry permit and taking various courses that adhere to state law and Armed School Employee Insurability Standards.

Classroom instruction, live fire range and school active-shooter training are listed as requirements.

“What the parent has moved forward with is that he doesn’t want all staff to be armed because some people feel comfortable around firearms and some don’t,” Kistler said.

Kistler said he talked with Hanover’s superintendent about how their procedures have gone and issues they’ve faced.

Friday’s town hall will clarify a proposal that might be brought to the Peyton board, Kistler said, and parents and other community members will discuss whether they back it.

Erin Prater

Erin Prater is Colorado Politics' digital editor. She is a multimedia journalist with 15 years of experience writing, editing and designing for newspapers, magazines, websites and publishing houses. Her previous positions include military reporter at The Gazette, general assignment reporter at The Huerfano County (Colo.) World, copy editor at David C. Cook publishing house and adjunct mass communication instructor at Pueblo Community College. Her bylines include The New York Times Upfront, The Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Military Spouse magazine and Omaha Magazine (Omaha, Neb.). Her syndicated bylines include The Denver Post, MSNBC.com, Military.com and wire services.