I had the honor to sit down with Longmont Police Department's Sergeant John Garcia to talk about school safety. Sgt Garcia is the head of the SRO (School Resource Officer) Program for Longmont Schools in SVVSD, is on the Special Operations Division and also SWAT.
Q- How can parents help keep their children safe while at school?
A- The most important thing parents can do to help keep their children safe in and out of school is to be involved in their children's lives. Be aware of who your children hang out with and know who their friends are. Know what your children are involved in and what their interests are; and give encouragement to do healthy activities. Keep your children involved in discussions about safety and ask your children intentional and specific questions about any concerns they have about safety at school. Parents need to understand the school safety protocols and need to talk to their children about them. The more people that are aware; and on the same page about school safety, the safer the environment will be. The best thing a parent can do is stay involved in their children's lives.
Q- Does Longmont Police Department train for school shootings?
A- Yes! I am one of the lead instructors for the trainings and we train on a yearly basis. We also help train surrounding Police Departments in Mead, Frederick, Firestone and Dacono.
Q- What would you tell a parent that is concerned for their child's safety while at school?
A- It is important to speak to your children about any concerns they may have with school safety but be sure not to project your own fears and concerns onto them. If it is warranted, you can always speak to the Principal, staff and SRO at your child's school as they are happy to talk to parents about what they do to keep the students safe. You can be part of the school's parent group to know more about what is going on around the school. Longmont Police Department and the schools work hand in hand, as a team, to help keep the children safe. It is also important to remember to not be afraid to ask questions; the Principal and SROs are there to help you.
Q- What is an SRO and what role do they play in keeping the schools safe?
A- SRO stands for School Resource Officer. SROs wear many hats in schools. Their aim is not to be at the school to police and arrest students for making mistakes, and as such, they let the school handle any punishments that students may get. Unless if it is a true safety concern they want to try to let the schools take care of things at their level. SROs aim to be another trusted adult for the students to turn to and to count on. They help create a safer environment by being a coach, mentor and educator for students, staff and parents. They help educate students, staff and parents on many things from safety, to laws and beyond. They work to build relationships with the students and can help with preventative actions by having those trusted relationships.
Q- If a parent has safety concerns with a school who should they speak to?
A- A parent should reach out to the school directly and first speak to the Principal and or SRO at the school. They can also call the Longmont Police Department and ask to speak to the SRO Supervisor (which is currently me). If they have taken these steps and still have concerns then they can go to the school district level and also speak to the school board.
Q- Does the Longmont Police Department and SROs know when the Safe2Tell program is used and what is their role in it?
A- Yes. When Safe2Tell receives a tip from within SVVSD (Saint Vrain Valley School District), the SRO Supervisor (currently Sgt Garcia) and SRO Liaison (currently Officer Clark) are notified of it every time. The SRO of a specific school will be notified if it related to their school or someone at their school. As far as what happens when a tip is received; it depends on what it is. If it is not safety related or criminal in nature then the corresponding school staff handles it according to their procedures. If it is criminal or a safety concern then the Longmont Police will investigate it and handle it as any other call to service.
Q- What are three main things you want parents to know about school safety?
- School safety is taken very seriously by the Longmont Police Department and the SVVSD and it is also important to have a community partnership from everyone.
- If you have concerns or questions don't be afraid to ask.
- If you see something, say something. We would rather look into it and it turns out to be nothing then not.
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