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Santa Fe board studies school safety measures

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe Public Schools doesn’t want metal detectors in its schools and doesn’t believe bullet-resistant backpacks or blankets are an effective means for keeping students safe. It would like to continue its discussion about possibly placing School Resource Officers on campuses and wants to explore the idea of producing an informational in-house video about what students should do in the event of a crisis situation.

Those were some of the main takeaways from a school board study session Tuesday night that focused on school safety and security. The district has already held three community forums and two student forums to identify the concerns people have about school safety and to gather feedback.

Mario Salbidrez, a former deputy chief with the Santa Fe Police Department who now heads SFPS’ safety and security department, gave a presentation to the school board that included both recommendations and non-recommendations for what the school district could do to keep its schools safe in an age where school shootings have become commonplace.

Superintendent Veronica García said at the outset of the meeting that the recommendations were meant to spark discussion on topics related to school safety. Some of them, she said, would require budget adjustments the board would have to take action on at a later date.

Salbidrez said one of the objectives was to identify “low hanging fruit” measures that could be implemented right away at little or no cost.

For instance, Salbidrez recommended increasing the number of lockdown drills performed at each school from once a year to three times a year, including two of them either between classes or during the lunch hour. He also advised the school district to continue using robocalls to supplement the FBI’s national campaign that says calling in a school threat is no laughing matter, but, in fact, is a felony.

At the top of the list of recommendations was to increase behavioral and mental health services within the district. García noted that the district is already planning to hire five additional social workers to assist troubled students.

Salbidrez said that while metal detectors can be used to screen for weapons and serve as a deterrent to anyone who might want to bring a gun on campus, he wasn’t recommending them for a variety of reasons. Among them were that they make some students feel like they’re entering a prison, they’d have to be staffed by an armed gatekeeper and they create a log jam as students try to enter the school. He also said bullet-resistant backpacks and blankets only serve to buy time and are no match for assault weapons and are costly.

While the board took no formal action, school board president Steven Carrillo said he plans to call for a study session on School Resource Officers, possibly in August. There was also general consensus among the board for producing a video explaining what students should do when their school goes on lockdown or a called upon to shelter-in-place.

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