NewsCovering Colorado


Parents at odds as District 20 considers staff and teachers volunteering for firearm training

A petition against the program, another school district explains effectiveness
Posted at 6:21 AM, Feb 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 00:23:44-05

Academy School District 20 in Colorado Springs is considering arming teachers and staff. The school board addressed it for the first time during a work session at the district headquarters on Thursday.

They discussed whether to let employees volunteer to go through a training program that would allow them to carry guns on campuses.

D-20 said they are a long way from a final decision about whether teachers and staff will be armed. The purpose of Thursday's meeting was to gather information and start the conversation.

News5 spoke with parents on both sides who say they just want their kids to be safe, including Kris Garofalo. One of Garofalo’s children is a sophomore at Pine Creek High School.

“How can we best protect our kids in today's environment?” asked Garofalo.

It's the question on every parent's mind. On Thursday, the school board let parents weigh in with their thoughts about the best way to do that. Earlier in the day, the board met for the first time to discuss considering arming teachers in the classroom.

“Based on what I know today, I would be comfortable,” said Garofalo.

D-20 parents want their children to be safe in school, but they have different opinions on how the district should protect them. Katherine Gayle’s children attend school in D-20.

“So even though I am completely comfortable with guns, I have been with them all my life, I would never consider carrying them in a classroom situation,” said Gayle.

Gayle also taught first grade for many years.

“There's always somebody climbing on the bookcase over here as you're reading with the student over here, and it would be impossible for anyone to teach effectively and to maintain firearm safety,” said Gayle.

Gayle worries teachers openly carrying guns may increase risks rather than provide safety.

“No, not in the hands of teachers,” said Gayle. “Teachers have no business carrying firearms in school as a supplement to safety,” Gayle said.

Other D-20 parents had a different take.

“We have to get smarter, we have to layer our security and we have to be comfortable making hard decisions around conceal carry and other options for our district.”

Kris Garofalo said schools need to be more secure.

“A layered approach to the safety, so not replacing a SRO's (School Resource Officer) or the security guards today but how can we elevate it with different options whether that's concealed carry, whether that's metal detectors, whatever it might be,” said Garofalo.

In Thursday's meeting, the school board talked about whether teachers would open carry, or keep their weapons concealed. They also discussed how teachers carrying guns would be identified. D20 said this is just the first of many meetings about this.

News5 spoke with the nonprofit that provides training, FASTER Colorado- Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response.

But it isn’t that simple. The training is vigorous and there are many steps throughout FASTER Colorado's program. There are also prerequisites people who enter the program must obtain first, like having a Colorado concealed handgun permit and going through a background check.

More than 500 staff and parents signed a petition against program implementation in D20.

There are several schools in other districts that utilize FASTER. Peyton School District 23 implemented the program in 2017.

Signs that say, "staff may be armed to protect students," are posted at every building entrance.

"It's not just giving people guns," said superintendent Derek Burnside.

"There's a lot of call reaction training into it, we learn CPR all that aspect with it, as well as how to treat people that are wounded," said Burnside.

Burnside said being a rural school district was the biggest factor in deciding to implement FASTER. He said especially because slower police response times.

"Most of these incidents, they're done in minutes and if it takes somebody 15 minutes to get here, that was kind of the initial thinking," said Burnside.

He also mentioned security budget limitations played a part.

"For us to have full time security, I have to look at where am I cutting a teaching position," said Burnside.

Burnside said there have been zero security incidents since the program was implemented. He also has no knowledge of incidents before it was put in place.

Laura Carno, executive director at FASTER Colorado, says District 20 is one of many Colorado schools that has approached her. She says school administrators want to protect students at all costs. Those at FASTER Colorado believe having staff trained as armed guards is one way to do so. Right now, Faster is currently working with schools in 41 districts out of the 178 school districts in Colorado.

“School board candidates start hearing about this from parents asking, “What are you going to do to keep my child safe?” So, I did hear at the end of last year, heard from dozens of school board candidates, including a couple from D20,” said Carno.

The study session was open to the public at District 20’s Education and Administration Center in Colorado Springs.

Those who go through the program are trained to stop an armed assailant and provide emergency medical aid. If District 20 moves forward with this, the program will be voluntary. No teacher or staff member will be required to carry a gun.

Several staff members have already started an online petition against the idea.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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