Rio Rancho Public Schools is on track to have armed security guards in place as soon as February following the Board of Education’s 4-1 vote to take the action earlier this month.
Chief Operating Officer Mike Baker, a former chief with the Rio Rancho Police Department, estimated the training required would be completed and armed guards would be in the hallways in “two to three months.”
Board members Wynne Coleman, Catherine Cullen, Ryan Parra and Martha Janssen voted in favor of the long-discussed measure. Board president Ramon Montaño, favors armed guards, but he said he preferred waiting for POMS & Associates Insurance Brokers’ best practices for school security personnel to align with RRPS’ chosen course.
“NMPSIA’s (New Mexico Public School Insurance Authority) standards for how we should implement this doesn’t give us any leeway to improve the system without their approval,” Montaño said, so that all the “ducks would be in a line.”
“What I’m concerned about is the liability. This is uncharted territory,” he said.
Existing NMPSIA standards outline three options for districts: contract with local police for a resource officer, contract with licensed security guards or use “as a last resort” Level 3 school security guards. The district has three resource officers, but stationing one at each school would be prohibitively expensive, as would getting licensed security guards.
The district plans to use Level 3 school security guards, and the training the board emphasized is beyond Level 3, which is fine with Montaño, but not precisely what NMPSIA has outlined.
Montaño is worried that requiring more training than NMPSIA calls for could be considered “going against the recommendations.”
“We’re exceeding what they asked for,” he said.
Montaño, president of the New Mexico School Boards Association, told the Observer last week that West Las Vegas Schools has deferred arming its security guards for now because of insurance concerns. Montaño is a Las Vegas native.
“I don’t want to put the district in a liability situation,” Montaño said.
During public comments before the vote, residents urged caution, suggested exploring other options, said they still had questions, and some were categorically opposed to adding more guns to the equation.
“Everybody is responsible for safety,” Superintendent Sue Cleveland told the board. “Whatever you all decide is fine. Put this to rest so people know (what has been decided) one way or another.”
Cleveland also noted that several surveys among RRPS staff, parents and the community showed them “overwhelmingly in support” of arming security guards.