Following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. last month, school districts across the nation reported an uptick in credible and non-credible threats, including numerous cases right here in Southern Colorado.
This is why KOAA News 5 and UCCS are hosting a special town hall event to start a discussion between law enforcement, school districts and parents.
This blog will highlight the important issues discussed throughout the night, what you can do as a parent to help, and explain how schools and law enforcement are handling these challenges.
The event starts at 6:30 p.m. with Rob Quirk and Elizabeth Watts introducing the guests to our panel. Coverage will move to News 5 Now (5.2) starting at 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. You can watch the event LIVE on-air, or right here within KOAA.com and the News 5 App via Youtube.
An audience member asked if schools are considering adding additional safety measures for schools, like bulletproof rooms or door stoppers.
Falcon Chief Education Officer Peter Hilts said Falcon schools have added bulletproof film on some windows
"School is statistically one of the safest places you can be, but you are also somewhat responsible for your own safety. said Pueblo Police Captain Charlie Taylor. "To teach them how to protect themselves and have them feel free to do that is part of the conversation."
An audience member has asked what schools are doing to help students who are bullied.
El Paso County deputy Sgt. William Elwell talked about an ambassador program at Falcon Middle School, which was aimed at reaching out to students who were having trouble assimilating with the rest of the student body.
District 20 spokesperson Allison Cortez said her district adopted a curriculum to educate staff and students about emotional intelligence.
Aspen Pointe has two walk-in crisis centers located in Colorado Springs that are open to parents who are concerned for their child's well being.
Addresses of both locations:
115 South Parkside Drive
6071 East Woodmen Rd., Ste 135
St. Francis Medical Center, North Care Building
Aspen Pointe also has phone resources for crisis help. Call 844-493-TALK (8255) or text: TALK to 38255
We are now talking about the dangers of social media and the spread of threats.
"When there's misinformation out there, that's how it spreads." said Woodland Park Spokesperson Stacy Schubloom.
Other administrators said it's an opportunity for parents to help their child learn the importance and responsibility that comes with using social media.
"We have an opportunity to teach digital responsibility and digital citizenship," said District 11 spokesperson Devra Ashby
Law enforcement and school officials are commenting on how parents are informed when any threat is made.
"On some level, those threats can be so innocuous and vague," said. Pueblo Police Captain Charlie Taylor. "To pass that along to parents would not be productive on every single threat. We're still trying to work through what is the best way to work with our parents."
School administrators said they are still evaluating how they treat communication with parents, due to the current climate surrounding schools.
District 20 said it tries to not inundate parents with messages about threats.
"If parents have a concern, call us every single time." -Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 spokesman on school threats @KOAA— Lena Howland (@LenaHowland) March 13, 2018
District 11 spokesperson Devra Ashby encouraged parents to participate in helping making our schools safe. She cited the D-11 "Watchdogs" program, which recruits fathers of good students to come to school to serve as role models for all students and to help at the district.
Other school administrators also said it's important for parents to educate their children on the seriousness of making "a joke" about a school threat.
"It doesn't seem like our students are on the same level of understanding the seriousness of school threats, even now." @District49 CEO on the importance of parents talking to their students about the seriousness of threats. "This is not a joke." @KOAA— Lena Howland (@LenaHowland) March 13, 2018
School administrators are now commenting on the feelings of fear some students are feeling about attending school.
"They might get the impression schools are dangerous places to be. Schools are the safest place our students ever go. Hundreds of times safer than the cars we take them to school, safer than malls." said Chief Education Officer Peter Hilts.
Law enforcement agencies are now weighing in on how they determine whether a threat is credible or not.
CSPD now talking about how every single threat, no matter how big or how small is investigated. "We investigate them all." @KOAA— Lena Howland (@LenaHowland) March 13, 2018
A representative from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office is discussing "finding the origin is our way of determining the credibility of the threat" @KOAA— Lena Howland (@LenaHowland) March 13, 2018
El Paso County Sheriff's deputy Sgt. William Elwell said officers always work to determine the source of social media threats, and more officers are finding viable evidence to charge students who make threats that are deemed credible.
District 11 spokesperson Devra Ashby explained a recent mill levy passed by voters will help increase the number of school resource officers at D-11 schools.
District 20 spokesperson Allison Cortez also said school funding has been a struggle for most districts in Colorado, and finding money for additional security resources at schools will be a challenge.
School District 2 now talking about the process that they recommend parents take when it comes to reporting threats, just coming off of a school closure because of a threat @KOAA— Lena Howland (@LenaHowland) March 13, 2018
Academy District 20 spokesperson Allison Cortez is explaining the protocol her district follows when handling threats.
"For every threat you hear about on the news, there's probably 25 you're not hearing about," Cortez said. "It's not because we don't want to tell you, it's because it's not credible, it's not something that you need to know about. We can clearly make sure everything is safe at the school without inciting panic."
Cortez also went on to say no students identity involved in threat investigation gets shared, because of laws protecting students. She said that information is all handled internally.
She added that law enforcement and school districts work together to conduct the investigations.
Colorado Springs Police said they have spent 300 hours in manpower on investigating school threats. Pueblo Police said they have investigated 16 separate school threats since late January.
UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy delivered opening remarks to start the event. Reddy bought up the killing of UCCS Police officer Garrett Swasey when making his opening remarks.
"Active shooter has become part of our lexicon, and that must mean we become equally active. We must actively talk about all layers of this issue, whether it be mental health, personal safety, classroom safety, violence or guns," Reddy said.
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