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BVSD school board reaffirms support for school safety advocates | #schoolsaftey

Boulder Valley school board members on Tuesday reaffirmed their support for the district’s school safety advocates, who replaced armed police officers in schools.

“This is better than any of us could have imagined,” school board member Stacey Zis said.

The school board voted in November 2020 to discontinue school resource officers and direct district leaders to develop new options to ensure safety, including hiring safety advocates. The board agreed to make the change based on concerns that students of color are more likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled.

The district’s 11 school safety advocates started in November 2021.

Since then, some parents have urged the district to return armed police officers to schools, while others have advocated for the district to continue the current path of only bringing in police to handle criminal issues.

Boulder Valley appears to be the only district in the area with a safety advocate program instead of school resource officers. The neighboring St. Vrain Valley School District has expanded its school resource officer program in recent years.

Denver Public Schools, the only other school district in the Denver metro area to eliminate school resource officers, changed course and returned them to schools in the spring. The reversal came amid calls from parents and others in the community following a shooting at East High School, according to a story in the Denver Post.

At Boulder Valley’s Tuesday meeting, school board members heard an update on safety and security that focused on the school safety advocates.

“They have made a substantial impact,” said Boulder Valley Safety and Security Director Brendan Sullivan.

Safety advocates assist with school investigations, including threat assessments, bullying investigations and sexual assault investigations. They lead emergency training exercises and drills, as well as building relationships with first responders. During a crisis, they support administration, work with other agencies, support safety at the scene and are part of the reunification team. They also build relationships with students.

Steve Brown, a safety advocate who works in the Louisville schools, described a “day in the life” of a safety advocate. A Boulder Valley parent, he’s a youth coach and previously worked in the district as a campus safety monitor.

“In my daily endeavors, the first and foremost focus is on relationship building,” he said. “I understand that the key to effective school safety lies in establishing trust, respect and open lines of communication.”

He said it’s not uncommon to receive information at night on a threat or other issue reported to Safe2Tell, followed by an early-morning meeting with the school principal to discuss the threat and develop a safety plan if needed.

He likes to greet students as they arrive at school, then may participate on a threat assessment team and lead a tabletop exercise on emergency preparedness. He often spends time with students during lunch and will give presentations in classes at a teacher’s request.

He coordinates school drills and monitors school dismissals. At night, he attends school sporting events, attends Youth Equity Council meetings and gives safety presentations at parent meetings.

Following the report, school board members praised the program as a model for other school districts looking for an alternative to school resource officers.

“It’s just incredibly clear that our (school safety advocates) know how to deescalate, they know how to engage, and they know when to ask for outside help,” school board member Lisa Sweeney-Miran said. “I can’t imagine safer environments than the ones that you all are providing to our students.”

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