District 51 to hire school security officers

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Colorado lawmakers have decided not to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools, but District 51 is adding employees who can be armed on school grounds and act as a uniformed presence in the halls.

"As a parent, I would love seeing an armed officer there knowing they're trained and ready to handle anything that comes up," said Tim Leon, director of safety, security and transportation for District 51.

Leon has been accepting applications for the past week for two security officers, who he said he hopes to hire within the next couple of weeks and put to work around spring break.

The officers would work with school administration to identify threats as well as interact and build trust with students.

"They do see on TV all the shootings and things that are going on, so they definitely get nervous as well, so I think that would calm their nerves as well as mine," said Kathi Rose, a District 51 parent.

East, West, Orchard Mesa and Bookcliff middle schools are potential candidates for the security officers because local law enforcement does not have school resource officers on those campuses, Leon said.

Also, behavior problems can arise at the middle school level, which a security officer could help prevent, he said.

"Those are the areas where kids will tend to start thinking about acting out a little bit," Leon said. "So we can start intervening at 6th, 7th and 8th grade level and being that positive role model or influence on kids."

The jobs will be paid for through the district's insurance fund for now, but they'll be included in the general fund when the new budget is adopted in July.

Officers will make between $39,145 and $40,456 annually.

Leon said the district plans to hire one or two more officers this summer and then continue hiring each year until there are eight security officers, or one for each middle school.

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