DENVER — When a shooter entered a Nashville school Monday morning, shooting and killing three 9-year-old children and three staff members, a school resource officer wasn’t present at the school.
Private religious schools rarely have officers on hand compared to their public school counterparts.
But in Colorado, both public and private schools often partner when it comes to school safety practices, sharing best practices and training together for the worst, according to John McDonald, the former head of Jeffco Public Schools safety team who currently serves as the chief operating officer for the Council for School Safety Leadership.
“In Colorado, we’ve had enough school shootings that I think everyone realizes we have to make this a priority,” McDonald said.
McDonald said private schools often have only one building rather than an entire district, which changes their ability to have day-to-day school safety.
“We may have the ability to hire 10 different security support personnel and a private school may have the ability to hire one,” he said.
“No school is immune and we can’t ever think that it can’t happen here.”
Collaboration is key when it comes to school safety. McDonald said many private schools will reach out to their public school counterparts asking for training or a site visit to determine vulnerabilities.
Deacon Ernie Martinez spent 40 years on the force with Denver Police. At that time, he responded to the shooting at Columbine High School.
Martinez now serves as the director of deacons for the Archdiocese of Denver. He also helps archdiocesan schools with safety plans.
“It’s a collaborative effort,” Martinez said. “Utilizing the best practices we’ve used in law enforcement over the years.”
“Resources are always an issue. I mean you don’t have enough resources whether you’re a big school district like Denver Public Schools or the smallest Christian communities. So what do you do? You leverage all the resources you have and ensure there’s proper training involved and awareness and implementation of a good quality program to ensure safety.”
Martinez said school safety is top of mind for all schools within the archdiocese’s system. He said school leaders train their staff to be ready for anything and rely on everyone to be alert to problems.
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