More School Workers Seek Gun Skills After STEM Shooting, Says Training Group

June 21, 2019
Photo: STEM Shooting 14 | STEM School, Kids And Deputy - AP
A Douglas County Sheriff's Department deputy directs people back to their vehicles parked outside the STEM School Highlands Ranch after a shooting at the public charter school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

There’s been more interest in firearm and medical training offered to teachers, school bus drivers and other school personnel since the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, according to Laura Carno, executive director of a training organization. 

The goal of the three-day FASTER Colorado class in Commerce City this weekend is to train people who want to carry firearms to stop an active shooter and deal with medical injuries like gunshot wounds. 

“Since the STEM shooting, there has been significantly more interest in this,” Carno said. 

“Parents are always sort of the leading indicator. They say I want somebody at my kid’s school who can stop these things if they happen.”

Under state law, districts decide whether to allow school workers to arm themselves.  About 30 districts currently do.

In districts where it’s allowed, Carno said, people who want to carry must be individually permitted to do so, which often comes with background checks and training requirements. 

This weekend’s class is full, with 24 attendees including teachers, a superintendent, a principal, a school nurse, an athletic director and others, Carno said. The first day of the curriculum -- which has been taught for three years in Colorado and seven in Ohio -- featured calibration, moving and shooting exercises and magazine changes. 

“It’s extremely in-depth firearms training for sure,” she said. “This is not a beginner class. We probably average 5-7 years, at least, of firearms training before they get here.”

She said that classes often spark discussion of how to carry -- schools require conceal-carry, and the goal, she said, is really something closer to “deep concealment.”

“Nobody better ever find it,” she said, adding that there are different considerations for different types of school workers. “If you’re a kindergarten teacher, if your kids hug you, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Photo: A reporter tries a police simulator
In this 2016 file photo, a reporter tries a Denver Police Department decisional shooting simulator.

Attendees will also get medical training and decisional shooting training using a police simulator: 

“Is this something I shoot at, I don’t shoot at ... the wall is the whole scene and you have a laser gun that interacts with the video,” Carno said.

Police documents released Thursday about the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch reveal that a hired school security guard responding to the gunfire accidentally shot a female student. According to the record, several officers reported that the guard fired twice at a Douglas County Sheriff's lieutenant.

The guard said he saw "a muzzle" come around a corner. The record said one of the guard's shots wounded a female student inside a classroom.

The document also said the guard caught one of the suspected shooters in a hallway.

Robert Burk, attorney for the unnamed guard, said Thursday that he had not seen the document and could not comment.

“I don’t know how that person was trained. If he was a FASTER trained person it would shock me that those things happened,” Carno, of FASTER Colorado, said. “He broke all of the rules.”

Photo: Firearm and medical training for school workers by FASTER Colorado
School workers listen to the classroom portion of the first day of a FASTER Colorado training in firearms and medical care in Commerce City on Fri., June 21, 2019. 

Paul Gregory, a law enforcement official and one of the trainers, praised those in attendance on Friday for being willing to risk their own lives.

“The decision you have made to step up to this plate is quite admirable because we can tell you not all of your faculty is like that,” he said. 

The next classes FASTER offers are re-qualification courses this summer for people who’ve completed the primary class. 

Are you a teacher or other school worker who carries a firearm? Please contact us at andrea.dukakis@cpr.org. 

Dave Burdick contributed reporting.