Superintendent talks communication, security personnel during committee meeting on school safety strategies

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FARMINGTON — Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter told state lawmakers that New Mexico schools need to keep up with our changing society to prepare for and mitigate gun violence in schools.

“Society has forced us into a different place with sufficiency,” Carpenter said during a Legislative Education Study Committee meeting on Monday in Santa Fe. “It’s not just about textbooks; it’s not just about how we (train) our teachers. Truly, we are in a different place with security.”

Carpenter gave the committee a review of some of the events of Dec. 7, when an armed gunman disguised himself as a student and killed two 17-year-old students and himself at Aztec High School. Carpenter also alluded to some efforts that may be coming in the 2019 legislative session to help make schools safer.

“As we think about sufficiency going forward, we just need to understand that sufficiency now includes security from the standpoint of physical changes on campus with capital improvements to people on campuses to protect our kids,” Carpenter said.

He mentioned lifting pension restrictions on retired law enforcement officers working as school resource officers, or creating a school marshal program with former trained military personnel. He also mentioned increasing the penalty for making a threat to a school from a misdemeanor to a felony, and creating a more holistic and integrative approach to red flags between agencies.

“We’ve got to make sure that all pieces of the pie are on the same platter,” Carpenter said in reference to communication between law enforcement agencies, mental health officials and school districts regarding individuals who have been identified as potential dangers. “… It’s not like we want to play big brother, but we do need to make sure that we are communicating on these issues … not for the purpose of infringing on people’s rights, but for the purpose of protecting others’ rights so that things don’t happen.”

Carpenter also told the committee to expect to hear more on the topics.

“Just know that you might see my face again, because I’m not going to let these things go, because we let two things go in Aztec,” Carpenter said, referring to Casey J. Marquez and Francisco “Paco” Fernandez, who were killed in the school shooting.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-546-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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