How often must we send these messages sharing our grief and thoughts for those impacted and condemning the unconscionable acts that take the lives of our young ones? — Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland
In Uvalde, Texas, the Robb Elementary School community is dealing with the loss of 19 students and two teachers gunned down by an 18-year-old male.
On Tuesday, Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland watched the mass shooting unfold just a state away.
“This senseless and terrifying act overshadows what should be an exciting time for our children and schools,” she said in a letter to parents and families. “It is hard coming up with the right words to share with you today. How often must we send these messages sharing our grief and thoughts for those impacted and condemning the unconscionable acts that take the lives of our young ones?”
On the same day as the tragedy in southwest Texas, a student came to Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque with a firearm in a backpack, and a Cleveland High School student reported a male student carrying a handgun in school.
Both students caught with the firearms were arrested.
‘Thankfully we were able to get the gun’
Late Tuesday morning, an unidentified Cleveland High School student told a Rio Rancho Public Schools Safety and Security officer that a male student had a weapon. The suspect was contacted, and authorities found and confiscated the handgun, according to RRPS.
“That student did the right thing and thankfully we were able to get the gun,” Rio Rancho Police Department Lt. Jacquelynn Reedy said.
No threats were made, and the weapon was not brandished or pointed at anyone, an RRPS press release states.
“At this time, we don’t know why he decided to bring the firearm,” Reedy said.
All students were safe and went about their regular school day.
The suspect is being held at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center, where he may face criminal charges.
RRPS stated he would receive disciplinary action that could include suspension.
‘We cannot do this alone’
A question that comes up with a report of gun violence at schools or if a student is found to have a weapon on campus is: What is being done to keep students and employees safe?
“This can no longer be a question just for school districts,” Cleveland said. “We cannot do this alone.”
The superintendent recommends that everyone, including residents without children in the district, report any concerns to administrators as soon as they arise.
“Speak up if you know about a weapon on campus, if a threat is made, if someone is experiencing mental health issues or if you have information about other possible safety issues on school campuses,” she said. “We need you to be a voice for our schools.
“We need you to take student discipline and concerns seriously. Support us when we work to address issues of safety. Please keep your guns locked up.”
Cleveland encourages lawmakers to come up with legislation and resources to help districts combat, as she defined it, “the school safety crisis.”
What is being done at RRPS?
In her letter, the superintendent outlined several measures the district has implemented to ensure the safety of its students and employees:
- Crisis response plans are in place in all schools to address a full range of emergency situations: “We do regular lock-down drills in all of our schools to prepare for all kinds of emergencies, including active-shooter situations,” she said. “We partner with local law enforcement and safety experts.”
- Schools are equipped with access-control systems, security cameras and a Raptor security system. The Raptor system is an integrated school safety software that enables schools to screen visitors, track volunteers, report on drills, respond to emergencies and reunite families.
- Gunshot detection systems are used at the comprehensive high schools and newer schools.
- RRPS has a highly trained Safety and Security Team in place: “The vast majority are former law enforcement, corrections or military,” Cleveland said. Some of the RRPS security officers carry firearms in retention holsters that make it extremely difficult for an unauthorized person to remove the gun from the holster. Armed guards must have law enforcement, corrections or military experience, undergo a psychological evaluation and participate in specialized training.
- RRPS provides annual training for parents on various safety topics, including gun safety, through its Parent University.
“Rio Rancho Public Schools has worked hard over the last few years to put safety measures in place to protect our students and staff,” Cleveland wrote, “and it continues to be a top priority.”