New Mexico

Rio Rancho Public Schools to hold panel discussion on school and student safety

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) - Just one day after Santa Fe Public School District held a parent forum on safety and security protocols, another New Mexico school is also letting parents know what kind of safety measures are in place to protect their students.

This time it’s Rio Rancho Public Schools holding a panel discussion with school officials, law enforcement, even members of the court system.

Schools districts across New Mexico have been dealing with threats following the mass shooting at a Florida school.

“I think that even if a teacher had all this planned, how can you focus if you’re more focused on a shooting? I mean, that’s just reality right now,” said Ava Rea, Rio Rancho High School sophomore.

The Rio Rancho School District is one of the districts holding a panel discussion.

‘That night when I came home and she said ‘Mom, can I not go to school tomorrow?’ and she told me why and I said you’re not going to school tomorrow,” said Maria Phillips, whose daughter is a junior at RRHS.

An online post threatened a shooting at Rio Rancho High School, even naming two specific buildings.

It prompted a heavy presence from officers and made students and parents fear for the worst.

“It’s one thing for a student to plan a hoax like that but what if it was true? What if it was real? In light of what happened in Florida, no one wants to take those chances,” said Phillips.

As a result, Rio Rancho Public Schools has received many concerns and questions from parents just like Phillips, who want to make sure their child is safe at school.

That’s why Thursday night, the district is holding a panel discussion on school and student safety.

“We want to be able to help them, provide them with information, help parents and community members understand what we have in place and what we are planning for the future,” said Beth Pendergrass, Chief Communications Strategy and Engagement Officer.

Pendergrass says parents have asked about metal detectors, searching bags, the current procedures in place, and what happens when a student gets in trouble.

To answer those questions, school officials, Rio Rancho Police, a juvenile probation officer and a district court judge will be sitting on the panel.

Rio Rancho Police Captain Ron Vigil will also be there.

“The Rio Rancho Police Department is working with the public school system. We are out there at the schools. We have the school resource program where we have officers stationed at different schools. We make our presence known,” said Captain Vigil.

Aside from school resource officers, Captain Vigil says officers train for active shooter situations at various schools throughout the district so they understand the different layouts. They also train with school personnel.

“We want to reassure that we’ve been preparing and hopefully preventing a lot of these things before they become an issue,” said Captain Vigil.

School officials say while the discussion has been planned ahead of time, parents will have the opportunity to ask the panel questions.

The panel discussion is being held at the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board Room starting at 6:30 p.m.


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