Officials discuss campus security, students to march
In the wake of the deadly high school shooting in Florida, area law enforcement will have a more visible presence at the Aspen School District campus, officials said Friday.
“I think it provides some comfort to have an extra presence to let everyone feel safe,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.
DiSalvo and Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor met for about 90 minutes Thursday with Superintendent Dr. John Maloy about campus safety measures.
The extra security presence — in addition to the one police officer and two sheriff’s deputy student resource officers who are regularly on the campus — is the only immediate change to come out of the meeting, Maloy said.
However, they talked about measures that can be done in the future, including hiring an independent consultant to examine campus security and look at possible changes that could add another layer of security, he said.
“We want to make sure we’re doing all the things we can do in that realm to make students and staff feel comfortable,” Maloy said.
Other plans include taking advantage of a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment program called “Hot Spot.” He said that program allows students to identify spaces they feel aren’t safe and come up with a plan to make them safe.
“It’s really driven by the kids,” he said.
Another new security measure, which rolled out in October, is a badge program for visitors to all three schools. The Raptor Visitor Management System requires state-issued identification, which it scans and compares with a sex offender database. If a person clears the screen, they receive a badge with their name and the purpose of their visit.
Maloy said he is not on board with proposals — trumpeted this week by President Donald Trump and others — to put guns in the hands of teachers.
“I’m not interested in arming teachers,” Maloy said. “For first responders to be arriving at a scene with an active shooter, it would be difficult for law enforcement to identify who is the active shooter.
“We don’t want to put our staff in jeopardy.”
Emily Driscoll, a senior at Aspen High School and a representative on student government, said Friday she’s helping plan a walkout and protest march for 10 a.m. April 20. They chose April 20 because it is the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, which they knew was significant to Colorado, she said.
Aspen high school and middle school students are inviting school staff and the community in general to join them as they march from the school to the Pitkin County Courthouse in support of gun control laws and better safety for students, she said.
“After Florida, I was really frustrated that this keeps occurring,” Driscoll said. “Students are killed in front of our eyes and the government is not doing anything about it.”
Driscoll said she and her fellow students plan to circulate petitions for adults and students to sign encouraging better safety in schools and stronger gun laws. They also plan to send letters to senators along the same lines, she said.
“I was sick of nothing being done,” said Driscoll, who also is a student liason to the board.
Maloy said he fully supports those efforts, but wants to make sure a conversation about the goals behind it occurs as well.
“We’re here to help kids learn,” he said. “Advocacy is a part of learning and a part of the political process.”
He said he wants to make sure students know why a walkout is happening and what they can do to make their voices heard.
“We certainly want to support them with that,” Maloy said. “It’s a great opportunity to engage the high school on safety and security on our campus.”
The main challenge to security is that Aspen’s schools in the Maroon Creek Valley are an open campus, he said.
DiSalvo said that issue has come up before.
“It’s an old problem,” he said. “It’s just a new subject.”
In the past, worries centered on drugs finding their way into the open campus and students leaving to drink alcohol or consume drugs, DiSalvo said. However, the community has always supported keeping the campus open, he said.
“I think our schools are as safe as they can be in this environment,” DiSalvo said. “They’re really as safe as any school can be.”
Still, the high school in Parkland, Florida, was possibly even more safe, he said. School shootings are unpredictable and shooters are becoming more clever, DiSalvo said, citing the fact that the latest shooter pulled the fire alarm to draw a crowd.
But the three school resource officers regularly on campus provide a level of security for the approximately 1,600 students that is greater than most schools across the country, he said.
“We are a very well-policed campus,” DiSalvo said. “I would say it’s way above the national average.”
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As of Sunday, everyone in the 970 area code has to dial all 10 digits in a phone number. The change in Colorado is part of a national switch that will enable the national rollout of 988, which will be the National Suicide Hotline. That number will take callers to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which will go live July 16, 2022.