LOVELAND — The Thompson School District Board of Education on Wednesday approved a plan that officials say will allow them more flexibility in arming school staff, while keeping down the cost to the district.
Thompson School District covers Loveland and Berthoud in Northern Colorado.
A resolution creating the new School Security Officer (SSO) position in the district will allow employees who volunteer to go through extensive training to carry a concealed handgun as an expansion of their current duties for the district.
Although the resolution does not explicitly say teachers and other support staff are eligible, it also doesn’t explicitly say they are not eligible. In fact, District Communications Officer Mike Hausmann told the Loveland Reporter Herald that it was the “spirit” of the resolution that it pertain “only to existing security staff hired by the district, not teachers.” However, the resolution itself does not specifically define which positions it applies to.
Although the arming of school staff is a topic with passionate views on both sides, the 4-2 vote came without public comment or board discussion. One of the longest tenured and most liberal members of the board, Pam Howard, made the motion to approve the resolution. She and fellow board members Nancy Rumfelt and Alexandra Lessem, as well as board president Barb Kruse voted in favor of its passing, while Dawn Kirk and Amy Doran casted the lone no votes. Boardmember Stu Boyd was absent.
All staff potentially eligible
With its passage, and the potential ability for any employee who volunteers to become armed, Thompson becomes possibly the largest and most urban school district in Colorado to allow concealed carry by staff.
Chief Operations Officer Todd Piccone agreed with Hausmann about who the resolution was intended to make eligible. He told Complete Colorado that this resolution is nothing new to school districts of its size, only new to Loveland, as they have not allowed their security personnel to be armed until now. He added it is only intended for employees currently under the direction of the security department.
“This is not bright and shiny,” Piccone said. “It’s a pretty standard process that most districts do. It’s just another layer on top to add to all the tools we have.”
However, the resolution says “The superintendent is authorized to designate the appropriately qualified, trained and licensed employees who shall serve as school security officers…” It does not specify a requirement to already be employed as security personnel, and it identifies the position as an “extra-duty assignment,” which is a job responsibility that extends beyond a current employee’s regular scope of duties. That extra-duty does not come with additional pay, Piccone said.
Colorado law allows school districts with the permission of their board to “hire” current staff under extra-duty contracts to hold the position of security personnel. Dozens of smaller and more rural districts and along with many private and charter schools across the state already allow their staff to carry firearms.
Piccone said other staff would not be considered because it’s outside the scope of their current job duties and would require insurance approval. He did confirm that it is also outside the scope of current security employees job duties as well, and hence the need for the resolution.
That resolution reads in part that “any employee” designated as a school security officer in accordance with the resolution … is authorized to carry a concealed handgun on district property while on duty as a school security officer.”
The resolution that took effect immediately is contingent upon the insurance company approving it in general.
“It is a multi-level approval process that insurance would have to approve,” Piccone said about employees outside of security who are considered to have “light duties,” adding he anticipates there will be some employees approved to carry concealed yet this school year.
Superintendent Marc Schaffer is the sole authorizer of what staff would be allowed to take on the new, armed duties.
Currently, Loveland has 11 Student Resource Officers (SRO) from the Loveland Police Department and the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office that share in the duties of protecting about 30 schools across the district.
The school district also employs two different levels of campus monitors at its schools that handle such things as student discipline interaction and conflict resolution, Piccone said. It also employs a threat assessment manager and a patrol manager. None of these positions are currently allowed to carry a handgun. This resolution would change that if the employees met a list of requirements.
Rumfelt said this was a great starting point to help secure the buildings and protect the children of the district.
“The fact is that people who have evil in their heart, select schools for a reason,” Rumfelt said. “They are gun free zones. We don’t have the budget to have as many SROs as we should in every single school. I really believe this will help and kind of open the eyes and potential for other paths to expand this further.”
Extensive training required
A three-page addendum to the resolution outlining the requirements and duties of staff members desiring to apply for the role aligns exactly with the requirements of the Colorado School District Self Insurance Pool, which Thompson is insured through.
Those requirements include certain licenses and certifications including:
- Valid permit to carry a concealed handgun issued pursuant to Article 2 of Title 18, C.R.S.
- 24 hours of Colorado POST certification or equivalent handgun training consisting of at least 4 hours of classroom instruction on topics including firearm safety, use of deadly force, legal principles and weapons retention in a school environment, followed by at least 14 hours of live fire range training exercises, including active shooter training concepts.
- At least 6 hours of Active Shooter Training, which shall include classroom time and simulated training.
- Annual recertification of Colorado POST or equivalent handgun training consisting of at least 16 hours of training, including at least 8 hours live fire range training, including active shooter training concepts, and at least 8 hours of active shooter training, including both classroom time and simulated training.
The requirements also aligns directly with the FASTER Colorado* training program, which stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response. FASTER training, which is offered to dozens of school employees across the state annually, exceeds the requirements of Thompson, as it also supplies school staff with medical training.
Laura Carno, executive director of FASTER Colorado, said the number of school districts reaching out for training has grown since the shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“In the months following Uvalde, interest from traditional-sized school districts continues to be on an upswing,” she said. “FASTER Colorado stands ready to assist with training needs of any school district passing similar policies.”
Carno said FASTER is looking into expanding its capacity for training specifically in Northern Colorado.
Rumfelt said she applauds her fellow board members for recognizing the importance of this resolution to protect the students and staff of the district.
“We have to be prudent,” Rumfelt said. “Our No. 1 thing is to keep kids safe.”
*FASTER Colorado is a project of the Independence Institute, which is also the publisher of Complete Colorado.
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