Education News

Twin Falls to place 10 armed security guards in schools

When elementary students in the Twin Falls School District arrive for their first day of school this fall, they’ll be greeted by their new teacher, their classmates, their principal – and their armed security guard. 

The district’s board of trustees voted unanimously at a meeting Wednesday evening to add 10 armed security guards from Eagle Eye Security, a private company. They will each be stationed at one of the district’s nine elementary schools and at an alternative middle school. 

The guards will supplement SROs in the district to ensure there’s an armed, trained adult in every school building every day. With the prevalence of school shootings on a national level, student safety has been foremost in the minds of parents, educators, and district officials. Adding armed guards is a relatively new approach to school safety in Idaho schools. 

The May shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead spurred the district to add extra coverage for its primary schools. 

“We were getting a lot of comments, concerns, and questions from the community about what we were doing to support safety at elementary schools,” said Eva Craner, a spokesperson for the district. “We’ve had pretty positive feedback that this is the direction the community would support.”

Last school year, the district’s six school resource officers were each assigned to a high school or middle school as their “home base,” with one to three elementary schools to check in on regularly. With six SROs covering 16 schools, they could not be everywhere at once. 

But the Twin Falls Police Department said it likely would not be able to provide any more than six SROs due to its own staffing shortages. Every new SRO means one fewer patrol officer. 

So the district got creative and considered a new idea – bringing in armed guards. 

The price tag for the guards is estimated to be about $250,000, Craner said, which will be covered with federal monies this school year. In future years, the district will likely put forward a supplemental levy to help pay for the new personnel. 

That cost is on top of the $318,876.66 the district will pay for its Twin Falls Police Department SROs and their supervising sergeant this school year. The department and district each pay half of the law enforcement officers’ salaries. 

When combined, that’s over half a million dollars to staff every school with armed protection. 

“When putting someone with a firearm in a school, you don’t want just anybody.” 

The school district and Twin Falls Police Department plan to work together closely to make sure the new armed guards are adequately trained. 

“When putting someone with a firearm in a school, you don’t want just anybody,” Sergeant Dusty Solomon, who oversees the juvenile crimes unit, said. “Our biggest concern is training them – that is a serious thing.”

The SROs have a rigorous training process. Before becoming an SRO, they must work as a patrol officer for at least three years. Then they must complete a 40-hour training course the summer before their first school year. More experienced SROs take advanced classes. 

Craner said that Eagle Eye Security will provide “highly-trained professionals who have a law enforcement background.”

But the SROs the armed guards will be supplementing have multifaceted roles that go beyond basic security. 

An SRO is the first line of defense in a school shooting – but there’s more to the job than that

If a shooting ever did occur, an SRO would be the first line of protection. Solomon said the department always works hard to make sure SROs don’t become complacent. 

“Hopefully it never happens, but if it were to happen, they’re ready and prepared to take care of it,” she said. “SROs are the chief of their jurisdiction. It’s their area that they’re in charge of and tasked with protecting.” 

But SROs in the Twin Falls School District have more on their plate than just emergency response preparedness. 

Solomon said SROs work to foster positive relationships with students so they will see police officers in a different light. 

1 2Next page

Related Articles

Back to top button