Wyoming Department of Education to Hold Roundtables Over School Security Following Uvalde Shooting
Wyoming's Deputy Superintendent Chad Auer plans to host a series of roundtable discussions across the state with district superintendents, staff, and school board members in June and July, according to a press release by the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE).
The roundtables are a response to the most recent school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, which prompted State Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder to direct Auer to host the roundtables, which plans to release a report in August.
Shcroder said in the release:
"As we continue to reflect on the tragedy that has befallen the families and citizens of Uvalde, the grief we all feel for them propels us to be prudent in making sure our own schools here in Wyoming are as safe and secure as they can possibly be," Schroeder said. "We would be remiss, therefore, not to reassess our policies and procedures, school by school, and district by district."
The press release outlined a few goals of discussion including school security, identifying school district needs, and understanding how the WDE can support school security across Wyoming.
Auer said that while they hope to be able to hear from people in every school district in the state, it will depend to some degree on how many people show up to their roundtables.
While school safety is important, Auer said he doesn't want to go too far in one direction by turning schools into prisons.
"I've had conversations with people who say 'well I don't want my school to look like a prison,' right because if you go to one end its an extreme, then we would have these tall cinder block walls around our schools. We clearly don't want to compromise student and staff safety, but at the same time we have to keep in mind there's competing priorities. And the other thing we need consider as well is accessiblity. Bad guys have access, so we certainly want good guys to have access, so how do we balance that is part of the goal."
Even though Auer is focusing on school safety, he said he agrees that increasing access to mental health resources is also an important part of the conversation.
"The vigilance and the preparedness side of it has to be discussed, but we also need to talk about the preventative side of it, and providing social workers, and counselors, and access to mental health support for students and staff is increasingly becoming a predominant part of what it means to run a public school. So yeah, I absolutely agree with that, looking at the preventative side."
While he doesn't know what schools need right now, Auer said he doesn't know at this time what kind of funding schools would need or if the WDE currently has the funding it needs to address issues schools might raise at the roundtables.
Auer said personally he doesn't believe guns are an issue when it comes to school shootings, but that it is a complex issue that involves many factors and that "we have to talk about all these things and figure it out."
After the Sandy Hook shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, then-Governor Matt Mead formed a task force to study and provide insight on the status of school safety and security in Wyoming schools.
In October of 2013, Mead's administration released its findings, which prompted changes to school emergency response, with the WDE requiring districts to have a school safety plan in place.
Auer said that he doesn't think that there currently is a need for another task force, but is still looking to hear from those in schools to find out what their needs are.