A rural Colorado school board has given two of its top administrators a new title: Security Officer -- a title which grants the administrators the ability to legally carry guns in schools and effectively bypasses Colorado's gun laws.
The Denver Post reports that Dove Creek and the Dolores County School District RE-2, a small rural community in the southwest corner of the state which is home to less than 300 students, voted to give Superintendant Bruce Hanks (who also serves as principal at Dove Creek elementary school) and Assistant Superintendant Ty Gray (who also serves as principal of the high school and middle school as well as the athletic director) the authority to carry firearms in school because the district is so small they couldn't afford to hire a full-time security officer.
Although the move is also a workaround that bypasses Colorado law which only allows police and security officers to carry guns on campus, the school board argues that it was not done simply to skirt current state laws, it really comes down to a school budget issue.
"What we're trying to do is driven by budget. We don't have the funds to hire a (school resource officer)," Hankins told The Cortez Journal.
Besides a limited school budget, the school board also argued in favor of allowing Hankins and Gray to carry guns on campus because of the average police response time in the rural community being roughly 40 minutes. "It is necessary to rely upon existing staff to fulfill the function of the needed security personnel," the school board resolution stated, according to The Associated Press.
And administrators with guns is just one part of the plan, according to Hankins. "It's not the answer to every threat," Hankins said to The Cortez Journal. "But if somebody comes into the building making threats or shooting, I'm not going to hide behind my desk. I'd prefer to have more than a chair (as a weapon)."
Hankins and Gray, both lifelong hunters as are many members of the local community who did not protest the move by the school district, will receive an additional $1 per year for the new responsibilities of being security officers.
Dove Creek may be small, but it is not immune to school violence. The Associated Press detailed a 2009 plot of two teens who allegedly planned to kill the Dove Creek High School principal at the time:
Authorities say in the spring of 2009, a 16-year-old student plotted to kill Dove Creek High School's principal, then ambush the county sheriff, take his weapon and continue shooting. Sheriff's deputies recovered seven rifles, including .22-caliber weapons, shotguns and an M1 carbine, at the boy's Dove Creek home, and three more weapons when the teen and a 19-year-old friend were arrested in New Mexico.
Authorities made the arrests after one of the teens told his family about the plot, which was delayed because the school was on spring break. The 19-year-old was not charged, and the district attorney's office does not release information on cases involving juveniles.
"They had stolen the guns and it just happened that the day they planned we were not in session. So, it is real to our community," Hankins said.
The first gun legislation considered in the state legislature this year would have allowed local school boards to vote whether employees ought to be able to carry concealed weapons on campus, but it was defeated on a party-line vote by democrats last month. However, Colorado law says that permit holders may carry concealed weapons at school so long as they're under contract as a security officer.
The Colorado Association of School Boards has neither condemned nor condoned Dove Creek's decision and the Colorado Department of Education has not taken a stance either because it's considered a matter of local control, The Denver Post reports.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, lawmakers in several states looked to curb school violence with proposals that would arm teachers, many of which were met with staunch opposition. However, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Dougaard signed a bill into law in March which enabled teachers to arm themselves. In Kansas and Georgia, lawmakers have also debated bills that would allow guns on school campuses.
Nearly 20 states already allow adults to carry a loaded gun on school grounds, generally provided that they have written permission from a principal or the school board. The laws don't necessarily specify exact reasons for giving teachers or adults the authorization to carry, but some do also include provisions for permissible activities like safety demonstrations or ceremonies.