5 Minutes with the SRO – How are Craig schools preparing for the unthinkable?
Editors note: In this edition of our monthly feature, we learn what’s being done in Moffat County to keep students safe from active aggressors, including shooters, in our public schools.
Craig Press: What are school procedures for an active shooter threat?
School Resource Officer Ryan Fritz: It doesn’t take a gun to hurt a lot of kids, so we prefer to look at it as an active aggressor. The police department trains in a school every year, usually in August, with all other law enforcement agencies in Northwest Colorado, invited to the training. All officers have access to the buildings and go through the buildings to learn the layout of each school.
We use the ALICE (Active Shooter Response Training) program. There are three conditions the schools are in:
1 — Lockout for everyday normal activities, but people must be buzzed in to get in.
2 — Shelter in place, where we keep the normal learning environment but do not allow movement between classrooms. This is usually a short-term status used to control student movements and allow us to move students from place to place, such as during an arrest or to an ambulance for a health issue or when a student is being removed.
3 — Lockdown. This is no longer just about hiding in place. Now, the biggest factor is communication. We are asking students and staff to make the best decision, at the time, with the information they have. They may lockdown and barricade and plan an escape route. Or barricade and prepare to counter. They make the decision based on what they know.
The school district runs the reunification plan. Each school has two rally points. Once there, Mike Taylor (school facilities director) and his folks send buses to pick up and take the students to the reunification point. Then, parents are told where to go to reunite with their kids.
CP: Are schools and law enforcement prepared?
Fritz: We hold annual training. We do drills. Every school is required to have some sort of drill every month. That could be fire drill, shelter in place drill, all-out ALICE active aggressor scenario drill. We will not have any drills with students in a building that include “sim-unitions”; we drill with voice. We don’t want to put ourselves, students in a situation where we question whether or not this is a drill.
CP: How can we prepare kids and community?
Fritz: It’s important that parents have updated phone numbers and addresses in Infinite Campus. What we don’t want is an active shooter situation and have parents show up and create more chaos in an already chaotic event.
Have the conversation with your kid. Families should have that conversation about what happens if – we are in Walmart and we here gunshots, at the fairgrounds, out of town somewhere. We don’t want to think about something bad happening in our schools, but I would rather we be prepared and nothing ever happen than not have that conversation and be unprepared.
CP: Are students allowed to keep guns/other weapons in their vehicles?
CP: Is it legal for teachers in Moffat County to conceal carry in our schools?
Fritz: Not outside of their vehicles or in school buildings.
CP: Do you believe teachers should be armed?
Fritz: Daved Ulrich (Superintendent of Schools) and I have spoken, and that is going to be a school board decision. When that discussion happens, I’ve been asked to be involved, along with the chief. The school district will make the ultimate decision. We work well enough together that we know we should be discussing that as a group.
CP: What are children instructed to do in the event of an active aggressor?
Fritz: We read from an age-appropriate book developed by ALICE for preschool to third grade. It puts it in a way that kiddos understand. We also give every principal an activity book and checklists to help teachers prepare supplies in the classroom. I’d rather they be prepared rather than freaked out if it happens.
We do refresher training at teacher in-services. For example, Friday, I’m teaching a refresher at the middle school.
CP: How would you get information out to parents and the community?
Fritz: We would have state patrol do reverse 911. Most of the communication is on the school district, and they have plans in mind. I’m going to be busy doing other stuff.
CP: Have you made any changes since the recent shooting in Florida?
Fritz: Yes. We used guidance given by the Colorado Safe Schools Resource Center. It’s a huge resource for parents. They gave some guidance for fire alarms outside of notified drills that mirror what we have been telling people already.
ALICE was created before Columbine. … It is the initiating event. It changed a lot of law enforcement and school response. After Sandy Hook, things changed. Every time one of these events happen, we learn from them and adapt.
CP: Are there measures in places that you can’t talk about? And why?
Fritz: We don’t discuss our exact procedures, because we don’t want someone using it as a tool against us.
CP: What is the recommendation for response to fire alarms, and how did this play out last month when an extinguisher was set off at Moffat County High School?
Fritz: We’ve had a lot of discussions since. We haven’t lost a kiddo in a school fire in this country since 1958.
We are removing pull stations from buildings that have adequate sprinkler and alarm systems. Without a pull box, you can’t trigger a fire alarm and bring people out into the halls where they could be in danger. We are asking for a lot more awareness. We are asking people to pay more attention.
There were some that didn’t like the idea of not immediately evacuating the school, but then the shooting in Florida happened, and now, they are thinking differently. It’s a change in mindset. We grew up with an evacuating drill. It’s a perfect situation for an ambush. We need to get away from what has been ingrained in us. Now, everybody has to adapt.
CP: What do you do to determine if threats are credible?
Fritz: Good police work. We investigate it, like we would any other threat to any other person. We do our best to involve other law enforcement, parents, students and staff. Everybody has two eyes and two ears. We encourage people that, when they hear something, see something, to say something, so that it doesn’t go unnoticed.
I would rather investigate 1,000 dead ends and not have a threat than not receive information and have it turn into a threat. Within the confines of the Constitution, during an investigation, I can go to student homes, talk with parents (and), in some cases, search rooms.
CP: How should students, teachers and individuals report threats?
Fritz: Safe2Tell is most helpful when the tipster is specific about who they are and the names of people involved so that I can best investigate. It is the most absolute, anonymous way to say something. 911, if emergent. Contact the SRO through dispatch or any trusted adult at the school. Principals are very proactive, and we work well together.
CP: Are the limited entry and cameras effective?
Fritz: I have to trust that first line of defense. You would be surprised at how well the front office staff at each school knows our parents and our families. If they don’t know someone, they question. They don’t release children to someone who isn’t listed on Infinite Campus. If there is an issue of someone demanding entrance, they don’t allow it to happen, and they call one of us.
The cameras we have are fantastic, but we could use some more. In an era of limited budgets, it’s difficult. Middle school Principal Dave Grabowski has researched door bars that cost about $150 each. That’s not bad, but there are a lot of doors. We’re looking at how to finance them and considering asking parents to help.
CP: Would you address the rumors that the schools allow repeat offenders to continue dangerous behavior and that law enforcement isn’t doing anything to keep kids safe?
Fritz: I can understand where that perception comes from, because administrative details of punishments, restrictions, etc … is private information. Just like people wouldn’t want that information released at the workplace, FERPA demands that we don’t release that information. With all threats and rumors of threats, we work with the school district to implement plans to keep all students safe, including those students from whom the rumors originate.
CP: Please tell me a little more about the new SRO.
Fritz: Nathan Businger is a patrol officer. He’s in the field officer training process that will last until about mid-May. I’m hoping to have him in the schools the last couple weeks of school so that kids can start to get to know him. He specifically applied for this job and has a kiddo in our schools. I think he’s a great fit for our community.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about school safety?
Fritz: Post Columbine, Sandy Hook, and now Stoneman Douglas, we are all just as concerned about our students’ safety as readers. It’s not something I take lightly. I have my own kiddos in our schools, and I want to make sure they, and all kiddos are safe.
SROs attend a safe school conference annually. My biggest takeaway was listening to a Captain of Newtown — a Sandy Hook first responder — a big muscled Italian guy, tell us the day before it happened he said it would never happen here. Then, he told us: Be prepared, like it’s going to happen here.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.