The Pateros School District is considering additional security measures, including the use of school-resource officers and allowing licensed staff members to carry concealed firearms.
The consideration of enhanced security was in part a response to two threats of violence against students and the school that were posted on social media in late November and early December.
At a special workshop on Jan. 31 to discuss school security and respond to parents’ concerns, Pateros School District Superintendent Greg Goodnight thanked the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office for their work with the district and their review of its security plan, which the district adopted at the end of August.
In response to the threats in the fall, the Sheriff’s Office worked closely with the school district to respond and investigate, and the sheriff and deputies took calls throughout the night, Goodnight said.
The Sheriff’s Office investigated the threats and didn’t file any charges, Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley told the Methow Valley News.
Additional security options?
The district is exploring several options to boost its security. They have solicited bids for a buzz-in door system to see if it’s financially feasible, Goodnight said. The system could be set so that everyone would need to be buzzed in, or could be open during passing periods, he said.
The district is also looking for potential partners to share a school-resource officer to help defray the costs, Goodnight said.
At Goodnight’s request, Hawley talked with district staff and community members at the workshop about the role of school-resource officers. These officers can be very effective, because they can have positive interactions and build good relationships with students, he said. Any plan for a dedicated sheriff’s deputy to work as a school-resource officer would require funding, he said.
Hawley also spoke with the group about allowing staff members who have a concealed pistol license to conceal-carry at the school.
When law-enforcement officers respond to a threat, there are always concerns that “they may not know good from bad actors” if there are multiple people with firearms, Hawley said. There’s the risk that they could engage with the wrong person and harm someone who is trying to be helpful, he said.
Even if Sheriff’s Office deputies trained with the school and got to know staff members, during an active-shooter event or other violent threat, available officers from all agencies would respond, which could lead to confusion and potentially dire consequences, Hawley said.
It’s also important to take into account the potential mental health risks to students who may witness a teacher or staff member use lethal force, particularly against someone they know, Hawley said.
Some school districts in the state do allow staff to conceal-carry. There are rigorous requirements for training and for a fully developed plan, Hawley said.
Goodnight and other staff members told the workshop about a recent training they had about mental health and suicide prevention. The training included strategies for proactive intervention and support for students.
The district is updating its website to allow better communication and “push” notifications with families. The district held a schoolwide lockdown drill on Jan. 27.