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Public hearing to address school security

Douglas County session is tentatively set for late April in Parker

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In response to gun violence tragedies in Colorado and across the nation, a subcommittee has been formed to address security in the Douglas County School District.

“The idea is to really bring the community together to have a conversation about how things are going in Douglas County, what we could do better and how we can get there,” said Kory Nelson, a member of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office's Public Safety Advisory Committee, formed of residents who advise the sheriff about operations, budget and community safety programs.

At its monthly meeting on March 14, the PSAC unanimously approved a motion to create a subcommittee on public school security. A draft of the motion lists 14 mass shootings and threats that have left an “indelible mark” on the community. They include the 1999 school attack at Columbine in which two students killed 13 people; the 2006 shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs that killed four; the 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater that left 12 dead; and the 2016 Columbine-inspired threat at Mountain Vista High School.

Made up of 25-30 people from across the county — including parents, young adults and businesspeople — the subcommittee will host a public hearing, tentatively scheduled for April 28, at Legend High School, 22219 Hilltop Road, Parker.

Citizens, parents, students, schools administrators and staff are invited to the public hearing, which will focus on the “history, current status, existing challenges, future plans and desired additional tools for public school security in Douglas County,” the motion says. The event is expected to be livestreamed.

“I think a lot of people in the community just don't know the current status of school security in Douglas County,” said Nelson, of Parker. “I think our community can bridge that gap of information.”

The subcommittee intends to invite several “relevant experts and civic leaders” to speak, including Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, DCSD security director Rich Payne, DCSD director of mental health intervention Stephanie Crawford-Goetz, District Attorney George Brauchler, the school board, school district committees and police chiefs from around the county.

Interim Superintendent Erin Kane, who is listed as a speaker but had not been formally invited as of March 20, said she looks forward to the community discussions on school safety. She will be part of a safety and security panel tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 10 at Rocky Heights Middle School, 11033 Monarch Blvd., in Lone Tree.

“I'm incredibly grateful that so many of our citizens are focused on the safety of our kids,” Kane said in an email correspondence. “I am looking forward to continuing these discussions with our community and our law enforcement partners at our safety and security forum on April 10, as well as the event on the 28.”

The subcommittee will report its findings and recommendations for legislation or administrative actions to the Public Safety Advisory Committee, according to the motion.

Currently, the subcommittee is looking at the possibility of placing a county sales tax measure on the November ballot for additional public school security funding. The Douglas County Justice Center Sales Tax has a .13 percent portion that is due to sunset at the end of 2020. Nelson would like to see that terminate one year early so a new sales tax could provide additional funding for school security.

“Why more isn't being done is always a problem of money,” said Nelson. “It's a really important issue, so let's bring the people to the table to talk about this and see if Douglas County is committed to making a clear, straight, reliable source of funding for school security.”

The issue of school safety hits close to home for Nelson, who has a daughter at Legend High School in Parker.

“My number one job in life is to keep my daughter safe,” he said. “We can and should come together as a community and have these conversations.”

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