SANTA FE – Amid complaints over an instructional video for students highlighting strategies for reacting to an on-campus active shooter, Santa Fe Public Schools will give parents the opportunity to have their children opt-out from viewing the video.
SFPS Superintendent Veronica Garcia said Tuesday some parents expressed concerns about the effect the video could have on students, especially the youngest ones in lower grades.
She said the school district received close to 60 complaints from parents about the video that teaches students to run, hide and, at last resort, fight an armed intruder on school grounds.
Most of the complaints came from parents with children attending Acequia Madre, Carlos Gilbert, Wood Gormley and E.J. Martinez elementary schools, she said.
“When you consider the thousands of students we have attending schools in our district, it was somewhat minimal,” she said of the response, adding that she didn’t want to minimize parents’ concerns. “We wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for all the parents that wanted active shooter training.”
Garcia said the decision to produce a video was made after there was support for it during community meetings that the district held after school shootings in Aztec, N.M., in December 2017 and in Parkland, Fla., two months later and shooting threats were made at Santa Fe High School last year.
She said the video was produced in-house, because some commercially prepared videos were deemed to be too graphic and didn’t represent the demographics of the Santa Fe school district.
The nearly 13-minute long video hasn’t been shown to any students at schools yet, but is posted on the district’s website. Garcia said it was made available to allow parents to preview the video before it was shown to the student population.
“We want our students to be secure emotionally, but we also want them to be prepared. That’s why we do drills,” she said.
Legislation passed this year and signed by the governor requires public and private schools in New Mexico to conduct shelter-in-place drills that include “preparation to respond to an active shooter” within the first four weeks of school.
Also posted on the district’s website is a letter dated Tuesday that Garcia sent to school principals. It says that parents will have an opportunity to have their children “opt out” of viewing the video and that it should not be shown until further notice.
Meanwhile, the district is working on a plan to “develop a plan for student viewing” of the Run Hide Fight video.
As she explains in the letter, the Run Hide Fight strategy is one recommended by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Association of Police Chiefs.
Garcia said some of the feedback the district received from parents suggested the video instills “an unnecessary sense of fear,” would be traumatizing for students and could cause psychological harm.
Rio Rancho was the only one of the three largest school districts in the state to respond to phone calls from the Journal. Spokeswoman Beth Pendergrass said that beginning last year the school district started showing an “ALICE” (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) video created by a former Texas police officer and SWAT team leader, which she said is only shown to high school students.
She said the district is looking into other ways to provide training, including using drama students to act out the parts.