DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — To protect its students and staff, the Douglas County School District (DCSD) decided to use firearms as its latest mode of security.
The district spent $12,300 on 10 semi-automatic Bushmaster military-style rifles for its eight security officers, despite the fact that they are not police officers. This is the first time a school will heavily arm school guards who aren’t part of any law enforcement agency, reported the New York Daily News.
The school district already has four layers of security in place. This includes 56 campus security specialists, school marshals, nine school resource officers and the eight security patrol officers — many of which are already armed, according to the New York Daily News. The eight officers with access to the weapons are all former law enforcement officers and will be required to complete an annual, 20-hour training course before they are able to operate the equipment.
DCSD Security Director Richard Payne decided to buy the semi-automatic rifles in July 2015 without consulting the school board or the superintendent, Public Information Officer Paula Hans told the New York Daily News. Payne made the decision during a training session, in which the security officers realized the sheriff’s deputies were using long rifles as opposed to handguns.
The district’s finance team flagged the purchase in January and brought it to the superintendent’s attention; however, School Board President Meghann Silverthorn told TheDenverChannel.com that the purchase did not require board approval because it was less than $750,000.
Hans told The New York Daily News that Payne believed the officers needed the rifles in case they were the first to respond to an active-shooter scene. The school district includes 86 campuses across 900 square miles that serve about 67,000 students, and security officials were concerned that police officers may not arrive quickly enough.
Dan Montgomery, a police and safety consultant and former police chief in Westminster, Colo., told The Denver Post that the decision was “unusual.” He said that proper training and secure storage are major concerns when handling the military-style rifles.
In the DCSD’s case, the 10 semi-automatic rifles will be stored in a locked safe within the security department.
Other schools in remote areas have purchased firearms, including the isolated Garden Valley School in Idaho that armed faculty members with four rifles and 2,000 rounds of ammunition last spring.