Weld County sheriff hosts active shooter training that teaches educators to stop threats | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County sheriff hosts active shooter training that teaches educators to stop threats

James Redmond
jredmond@greeleytribune.com

Colorado educators fire their weapons during a qualification test as a part of their active shooter training. Thursday marked the end of a three-day, highly specialized class designed to teach education professionals how to stop active shooter situations and deal with related injuries.

The bark of gunfire rang in the air as 17 Colorado teachers and school administrators squeezed off round after round from their pistols Thursday afternoon.

The event marked the end of a three-day, highly specialized class in Weld County — at an undisclosed Weld County Sheriff's Office site — designed to teach education professionals how to stop active shooter situations and deal with related injuries.

This is the first time Colorado educators have had the chance to take this specific advanced course, designed to train concealed weapon carriers to stop threats in a school environment. It took place in Weld County because Sheriff Steve Reams agreed to let the class use a sheriff's office site for the training.

"I've always been kind of a proponent for providing teachers a way to be armed in school districts that have been open to that ideology," Reams said. "If you look at any of the school shootings around the country, the emphasis is always the quicker the threat can be stopped, the less carnage ensues — whether that's a school resource officer that happens to be in place or just an armed responder in any capacity."

The FASTER course — an acronym for "Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response" — was the brainchild of Ohio organizations Buckeye Firearms Foundation and Tactical Defense Institute. Its curriculum includes three days of rigorous mental, physical and classroom education on firearms, tactics, fist aid and more specific exercises designed for schools and educators.

This week's class marked the first FASTER course taught outside of Ohio, said Angela Armstrong with Buckeye Firearms Association.

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In five years in Ohio, the institute has taught educators from 75 of the state's 88 counties — and the organization predicts it will have instructed more than 1,000 educators by the end of the year.

Throughout the class educators go through firearm accuracy drills — by the end of the class each person will fire more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Course materials cover topics from mindset to medical techniques. Each student also will participate in live simulations with non-lethal pellet guns.

In Colorado, public school staff designated as school security officers may carry concealed weapons. It's a law that has been on the books for a while, but it gained renewed attention in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, said Coloradans for Civil Liberties founder Laura Carno. In 2014, Colorado gave charter school boards the ability to designate school security officers, she said.

With Colorado's ability to put staff armed with concealed weapons in public schools, Carno thought the state could have a use for a specialized class for school security officers.

With a more-than-20-person waiting list for an as-of-yet unscheduled class, this won't be the last time Colorado educators have the chance to take the FASTER training. And in Reams' mind, that's a good thing.

"Is three days enough, I don't know," Reams said. "I can tell you that's much better than no training."

In his mind, advertising a school as a gun-free zone tells criminals they won't find serious resistance if they try to harm the school and its students and teachers, he said.

A school security officer could be full-time position, however. In many rural school districts, it's a designation educators volunteer for in addition to their normal duties. Thursday's class was comprised of about 40 percent teachers and 60 percent administrators, Carno explained.

Only educators with concealed carry permits and who have been approved as a school security officer — or are actively in the process of getting approved — can take the class. The class cost about $1,000 per participant. Some schools district pay for their security officers to attend, she said, but most small districts can't afford it, so Coloradans for Civil Liberties raises money to offer scholarships.

"We're not saying we want more people to carry guns," she said. "I'm advocating that this is the law. People are doing this. There should be better training."

About five Weld educators took the class, but Carno wouldn't say which school district they came from because anonymity comprises an important part of the course.

While some school districts publicly declare the presence of trained and armed educators, most districts don't publicize the fact, she said. If people knew which educators carry weapons, that could make them targets, she said.

Carno kept the location of the class and the identities of its participants confidential — unless the participant explicitly allowed the release of their identities. The Weld participants in the class opted for that anonymity.

The training doesn't turn educators into law enforcement professionals, Carno said. It helps prepare them as much as possible for how to stop a bad situation from getting worse, she said.

"If there's a fire on the stove and you call 911, you don't wait there with your arms crossed. You try to put the fire out while you wait," she said. "We just want to provide world-class training because we know this can save lives."

Learn more

Coloradans for Civil Liberties brought the first FASTER course — an acronym for “Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response” — to Colorado and held it in Weld County this week.

Learn more about FASTER at http://fastercolorado.com.

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