Colorado’s Morning News, Chris Holbert, May 8, 2019

Station:    KOA, 850 am

Show:       Colorado’s Morning News

Guests:    Holbert


Date:       May 8, 2019

Topics:     STEM School Shooting, Highlands Ranch, School Safety, Douglas County Commissioners, Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Kendrick Castillo, Guns, Armed Security Personnel, SROs, School Resource Officers, Budget, Negative Factor, Funding, Mental Health Resources

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ZESBAUGH [00:00:13] […] Coverage of the deadly school shooting in Highlands Ranch. And right now, we’re talking with the senator representing that district in the community where the shooting happened. We’re talking live with Senator Chris Holbert. Thank you so much for coming in and joining us here live in studio.

HOLBERT [00:00:25] You’re welcome. Thanks so much for having me in and covering the story.

LENZ [00:00:28] What were your first thoughts when you heard about this taking place?

HOLBERT [00:00:31] I received a text from a business associate, asking if the incident had happened in the district that I represent. And I hadn’t heard. So I immediately went to social media and started looking around. And it was evident that, yes, the STEM School in Highlands Ranch is in the district that I represent. And I want to thank the Douglas County commissioners who reached out very quickly to the other elected officials. One of the realities of being a state legislator is we don’t have inside information, we’re not emergency responders. And I’m just grateful the [for the] Douglas County commissioners who were on site very quickly getting information from the sheriff’s department, and then disseminating that information out to the other elected officials like me.

ZESBAUGH [00:01:09] I know we always say after these horrible things, you know, “I can’t believe it happened in my community!”  You hear that over and over. At this point, we should believe it can happen anywhere. Do you have children in the Douglas County School District.

HOLBERT [00:01:20] My two sons are grown. They both graduated from Douglas County high schools — or high school, Chaparral. My older son is actually a deputy in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.

ZESBAUGH [00:01:30] Was he called into action yesterday?

HOLBERT [00:01:31] I believe he was he was called into the Justice Center down in Castle Rock to relieve, because so many officers — deputies — were moved out of that facility and [ordered?] North, very similar to the day that deputy Parrish was killed. The response — the perspective — that I have is [one] of gratitude, of thanks, for the emergency planning that our school district, our sheriff’s department, and other emergency responders in the area have practiced for about 20 years, since Columbine. And if parents, if residents are out there wondering what needs to be done, please look back to the past 20 years. I don’t have great insight on that emergency response plan because they keep it rather secret. They don’t want people who would do bad things to know what that plan is. But what I’m hearing from Sheriff Spurlock and Undersheriff Nicholson-Kluth is confirming [that] there apparently there wasn’t an SRO at that school at the time. But what I’m hearing is, within a few minutes there were deputies there and and they ended that situation. That means the plan had to have worked. As we analyze that, the school district, the sheriff’s department, other emergency responders [of] Arapahoe County. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of the the the law enforcement and fire and EMT ambulance services who were there immediately. We saw that at Arapahoe High School when it was on the north side of County Line Road, and yesterday we saw it on the south side. And I’m grateful for all of those folks, and the District employees who jumped in and got all of those students moved off to the rec center and then helped reunite students with with parents.  The plan, it appeared, worked. So how can we prevent these things? I suppose that’s the discussion: can we?   But, [I feel] just gratitude for the response.

LENZ [00:03:31] Well and that’s the thing. I mean, okay, so the plan works. Any loss of life is too much. So the young person that lost his life — Kendrick Castillo, [it] sounds like things are coming out that he was somebody who tried to put himself in harm’s way to protect other people. So, if the plan worked, it could have been worse. [It is] tough to say that when somebody has lost their life. So, how do we prevent it from happening in the first place?  You alluded to — you don’t necessarily know. But you craft, shape, and create policy. Is there anything more from that side of things? And we have to talk about it, whether it’s, you know, guns — I know people don’t like talking about that — school safety, some of those issues. How do we craft something to prevent this from even becoming what it is, that we have to put a policy or plan in place to to make students safe?

HOLBERT [00:04:10] I think these discussions in Colorado need to start with the school district. We have 178 of those in Colorado. And the school board in each one of those school districts really is the ultimate authority for what happens with that kind of planning, whether it’s hardening schools, single point of entry, possibly metal detectors. I don’t know. But those are decisions that our school boards make in Colorado and not the governor, not the state legislature. In other states, if people listening have moved to Colorado from some other state and maybe those decisions are more centrally made at the legislature or the governor’s office, just understand that in Colorado those things work differently. And rural districts don’t have as much resources, and many of our rural school districts are hiring private security — armed security — in their schools. I think in Douglas County our school board prefers SROs, and those are law enforcement officers. Generally, in Douglas County, that means a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy. We have those resources in Douglas.  But we can’t say ‘one size fits all,’ because out of our 64 counties not everywhere looks like Douglas and has the population or the budgeting to be able to do that. So, having that discussion start with our school board, I think, is very important, and allowing those solutions to be different based on the community, and the budget, and the ability to respond.

ZESBAUGH [00:05:33] In the minute that we have left with you,–.

HOLBERT [00:05:34] Yes, ma’am.

ZESBAUGH [00:05:34] And I think that’s a great point. What do you say to parents this morning who are frustrated with the legislature — and now the session’s over — who are not enforcing or enacting tougher gun control laws, yet also not putting any more money into these SROs at schools, or into mental health resources. So, it’s kind of like, well what is being — if one’s not being done, shouldn’t something be done?

HOLBERT [00:05:55] Well, we have put more money into schools. We’ve put more money in — I’ve been in the legislature for nine years, and eight of those nine years we’ve put more money in every year.

ZESBAUGH [00:06:04] For security?

HOLBERT [00:06:05] And including security.  The past couple of years, since [the] Arapahoe High School [shooting, the] Claire Davis act tightened security requirements for schools and districts.  And we have put more money there. The the local school board — I’m not trying to place blame, but they have to decide how those resources are spent, and ultimately they decide how all of the money is spent in their district. They handle the budget, not the state legislature and not the governor. So, working cooperatively with those school boards in allowing a district to have a different solution than the next, I think that’s really important for us at the legislature.

LENZ [00:06:47] And quickly, mental health as well — just not fortifying schools — are there resources for that, too? — counselors, people to talk to students that maybe are feeling whatever they’re feeling and have these feelings?

HOLBERT [00:06:55] Yeah, and we —  again, I don’t think we can mandate that a school district would have more counselors, or a school nurse, or whoever that might be. But that’s another discussion where providing the funding, making sure the school district can do it the way they want to do it, that’s I think where legislators from individual communities and then collectively, the legislature as a whole, needs to be attentive, listen to what the school districts need. We fought hard in the past session to buy down what’s called the negative factor. The state legislature — the state — has owed about $700 million to school districts, 178 of them. And I’d like to be able to give that money to them and let them decide the best way to allocate it.

ZESBAUGH [00:07:35] GOP State Senator and Minority Leader, Chris Holbert, thanks for the time.

HOLBERT [00:07:39] You’re welcome.