By Jill Richardson
Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue isn’t usually one to sit around and wait for things to happen. Despite the legislature’s failure to pass a bill that would have made local police departments be involved in safety planning within school districts in Idaho, including charter schools, Donahue vows to have his office available at a moment’s notice when it comes to planning for safety of children in Canyon County schools.
Senate Bill 1133 would have required school boards and sheriffs to work together to draft individual school safety plans and threat assessments. But, as SB 1133 went through the process, Donahue explained that it was high-jacked and law makers replaced much of the bill with language from House Bills 219 and 280, which tie the hands of law enforcement when it comes to dealing with armed persons. In the end, none of the bills made it to law.
Sheriff Donahue, accompanied by Canyon County Deputies Travis Lowber and Heather Leavell, addressed the Melba School Board during the April board meeting and offered to work together —without being mandated—with districts and administrators to create a protocol and plan for security issues.
“We have a serious problem,” Donahue told the school board. “We are afraid to send our kids to school but answer is not to cut off the hands of law enforcement. It is up to you as a school board to decide how you wish to address a situation, God forbid. Canyon County Sheriff wants to sit down and offer you a plan.”
Canyon County already works with Nampa, Caldwell and Middleton schools on proactive planning and training. Many of those districts include a School Resource Officer on site. However, Canyon County does not have any contract with the City of Melba or Melba School District to provide an SRO, like it has with the other towns in the county.
“We have gone to great lengths in protecting this community and we will continue to go to great lengths,” said Donahue.
Donahue offered to sit down with multiple agencies including SWAT to devise a plan and train teachers and administrators in Melba. Those plans would be written in a book that law enforcement has access to in the case of an emergency.
There are generally three options in the case of an armed intruder, run, hide or fight. Donahue said that in evaluating the Melba School facilities, they are built to evacuate. That is due to the large amount of doors. There is no quick way to lock down all doors at once and the multiple doors leave many escapes
“Evacuation would be an organized and unorganized fluid chaotic moment,” said Donahue. “If a certain alarm is heard indicating an intruder, teachers are to quickly shepherd the children as far away from the school as possible. If they are unable to evacuate then hide.”
“Shooters do not typically leave the school,” said Donahue. “They wait for law enforcement to get there and try to take them out or the intruder is taken out by law enforcement.”
Law enforcement has changed the way they respond to incidents recently. They will no longer arrive on scene and then wait for backup, they are instructed to immediately enter the school and address the threat with or without backup.
“My biggest fear, and it keeps me up at night, is that anything could happen to these kids,” Donahue said. “We’ll do everything we can to prevent it and if we can’t prevent it, how do we deal with it.”