In response to community concerns, Taos Municipal Schools tackled the issue of student safety head on.
Parents and faculty gathered Tuesday (April 24) in the Taos High School gym to discuss safety concerns from students and the community. The forum brought together law enforcement and school district faculty to give parents an idea as to what is planned for student safety. Topics from gun regulations to funding for various programs in schools were discussed by the panel as questions were asked, and answered, from a list of student concerns.
"We have not found a balance in protecting the Second Amendment rights and keeping those guns out of the hands of criminals," said Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe.
Hogrefe, along with Taos Police Chief David Maggio, represented law enforcement and were asked several questions relating to gun safety, drills and other aspects of handling an emergency situation in the schools.
The panel touched on other topics, such as security doors, bulletproof glass, extra security and other measures students across the nation have been discussing following recent school shootings. While everyone on the panel agreed that extra measures could be implemented, Taos High School Principal Robbie Trujillo reminded the audience that nothing simply shows up out of nowhere in a school district.
"I'd love to see more security and police presence," Trujillo said. "I do have a sense of reality, and I do know that these probably come with major amounts of funding."
Following the forum's questions from students, audience members asked questions of the panel and Superintendent Lillian Torrez, who was also at the meeting. While nearly 30 community members made the forum, several mentioned starting a parents group to further the discussion.
When asked about adding more police presence, Hogrefe said he did not know if that was a possibility at the current moment.
"Putting more police in schools is not a realistic solution at least right now," he said. "We can't be proactive if we're in here and not out there."
Taos Municipal Schools will also apply for some extra state safety funding to help with some costs and implementation of future safety measures in schools. Gov. Susana Martinez said in March she would sign Senate Bill 239, allowing schools to apply for a piece of a $10 million fund for school safety. The fund will extend for four years, totaling $40 million, and schools can apply each year.
Update on what Taos Municipal Schools has done for safety since the Aztec High School Shooting
1) Implemented the "Stop it" anonymous reporting program at secondary schools
2) Attended Safe and Secure Schools/Responding to 21st Century Threats Workshop (4/23 Alb)
3) Held a Community Safety Forum April 24
4) Monthly districtwide safety committee meetings
5) Site safety committees meet on a regular basis
6) Site-specific safety plans as required by NMPED approved first semester
7) Trainings for staff
8) Individual school site security assessments conducted by Poms & Associates
9) Safety drills as required by law (fire, shelter in place, lockdown)
10) Participated in the Taos County Sheriff’s active/threat shooter training Jan. 24 with upcoming training dates for staff and creation of an emergency response plan for next school year.
11) Nurses and social workers participated in UNM Health Sciences Suicide Prevention Workshop in the Columbia Rating Scale - trained on mental health to assess suicide risk
12) School counselors, social workers, teachers, nurses participate in connection with HOT 1 – Help Outreach Taos
13) Worked with law enforcement to identify risk factors
14) Requested Taos Police Chief and Taos County Sheriff to present on Safety at 2/27 board meeting
15) Had presentations by vendors for safety/security equipment
16) Held several meetings with principals to discuss safety procedures and debrief on Aztec High School incident
17) Added 38 additional cameras at all schools
18) Meeting with students about safety
19) Working on providing mental health support as provided by Non-Violence Works
20) Hired consultant-therapist to assist with students in crisis