DCSD changed following Columbine

Director of safety and security outlines policies, practices

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At the Douglas County School District, 18 employees — a combination of armed personnel and security technicians — make up a 24-hour dispatch communication center in Castle Rock. The number of unarmed campus security specialists assigned to middle and high schools is 54. And 24 school resource officers and marshals from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office rotate through high schools and middle schools daily.

Rich Payne's Safety and Security Department is robust, doing all it can to protect the 68,000 students and 8,400 employees at the district's 91 schools.

Columbine, Payne said, changed everything.

“We address everything now as a team,” said Payne, who has been the district's director of safety and security for nearly five years. Previously, he spent 24 years as an officer at the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Since Columbine, DCSD has implemented a universal standard response protocol from the I Love U Guys Foundation, as well as Safe2Tell and TextATip, both confidential reporting services. A safety and security committee formed with representatives from law enforcement agencies, fire agencies, district leadership, schools and the parent community. The committee has about 20 members who meet once a month to discuss safety issues.

DCSD's security and safety is twofold, Payne said. There are the physical features — cameras at every school, locks on doors, ballistic film on some windows. Behind the scenes, the school district works closely with local law enforcement — the sheriff's office, Lone Tree Police Department, Castle Rock Police Department and Parker Police Department. A radio system allows for constant cross-communication between jurisdictions, reducing response times when a problem arises, Payne said.

And there are the psychological features — a Prevention and School Culture department, a Mental Health Intervention department, counselors, classes that promote life skills and mental health.

In more recent years, the district has worked to improve its communication with parents. Paula Hans, DCSD's public information officer, spearheaded an initiative in 2016 — in cases of a lockdown or lockout, her team must send a notification to parents within 10 minutes of being notified by dispatch.

Hans, a parent, said she's passionate about keeping parents informed.

“Our goal is always to communicate as quickly as possible with confirmed information,” Hans said. “We want to make sure parents know that the school district is aware and handling it and involved.”

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