Since the murder of our son Kendrick at the STEM School on May 7th of 2019, we have been very involved in the school safety arena. This has included personally endorsing candidates who support school safety practices that we know will keep children safer than they are today. The race for Douglas County Sheriff hits very close to home for us.
After our son’s murder, we worked very closely with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) during the investigation. Leading investigations for DCSO at the time of the trial was Darren Weekly, who is now the Republican candidate for Sheriff. It was such a comfort to us, every day of that three-week long trial, to see Darren in court. Like many people we met during the course of the horror that our family went through, Darren eventually became a friend.
Furthering Kendrick’s mission to us means educating other parents and community members about various aspects of school safety. We have endorsed Darren for Douglas County Sheriff because his view of school safety lines up very closely to ours. But there is an Unaffiliated candidate in the race, who is running as an “expert” in school safety, and we find ourselves in the position of having to speak out against some of his statements. Some, we believe will make schools less safe. Some are insulting and hurtful to our family.
This other candidate, Michael Phibbs, recently said in a Candidate Q and A for the Parker Chronicle, in response to a question about addressing school shootings: “…I believe we can prevent school shootings by strengthening behavioral threat assessment teams. Design features could be incorporated within schools to mitigate the consequences of shootings. Emerging technology should be explored. Additional training could be provided to our school communities to improve response to active harmers. I do not support the idea of arming teachers in Douglas County Schools.”
The bold and italics above are ours. We want to make sure Douglas County voters know that Mr. Phibbs refers to these killers of our children, or domestic terrorists as we have come to call them, as “active harmers,” as if Columbine, Platte Canyon, Arapahoe High School, and STEM School didn’t happen. Our son Kendrick was not harmed. He was murdered. Phibbs’ choice of words is not just inaccurate, it is insulting and painful to our family, and the families of all those whose children have been murdered, injured, or otherwise impacted by these horrific events.
In an interview with Newsbreak, Phibbs addressed the policy of armed school employees, a policy we support, along with a high-level of training. Here is what he said about that: “I will admit that there is a discussion to be had for (arming teachers) in rural school districts in Colorado,” Phibbs said. “That’s not the case in Douglas County. We have law enforcement everywhere; we have three municipal police departments, we have a large sheriff’s office, we have school resource officers everywhere — law enforcement can be that response.”
This is tone deaf and uninformed. The law enforcement response at the STEM School was quick, but it wasn’t in time to save our son’s life. The only possible person who could have saved Kendrick, against two armed assailants, was the teacher in that room. But she didn’t even have the option to carry. The STEM School shooting may well have been as deadly as Uvalde had it not been for Kendrick’s heroic actions. The adults in charge, including our next Sheriff, should never think it’s OK for children to stop active killers (note: not “active harmers”.)
We attended one of the “school safety” discussions that Phibbs held in September, and asked him whether he had shared his school safety ideas with any school board members, or school administrators. He said that he had not. It left us wondering whether these ideas were just to get elected.
Coloradans send their children to school every morning expecting them to come home alive. Douglas County deserves a Sheriff who supports policies to keep our children safe at school.
Please vote for Darren Weekly for Douglas County Sheriff.
John and Maria Castillo are Douglas County residents, and are the parents of Kendrick Castillo, the hero of the STEM School shooting.
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