LOS CHAVEZ — Los Lunas Schools recently hosted an active shooter training led by ALERRT for school resource officers and other law enforcement from across Valencia County and beyond.
Desi Garcia, Los Lunas School’s director of safety and security, attended the training at a conference in Las Vegas, Nev., in December, and said it was one of the best trainings he ever experienced in law enforcement.
“I was so impressed by the type of training that was incorporated that I did everything I could to get them here,” Garcia said.
Through a grant sponsored by ALERRT, the district hosted two separate trainings. Each one was spread over the course of two days and covered shooting and moving, concepts and principles of team movement, room entry techniques, approaching and breaching crisis sites and more.
Garcia said he found the first aid component particularly impressive.
“We’re required to render first aid in the event of an attack and it gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to incorporate a tourniquet which I’ve been trained on, but I felt like I didn’t have the confidence to do it until after I attended this training,” he said.
Garcia said agencies in attendance at the training at the Dennis Chavez Elementary in Los Chavez included county police departments such as Belen, Los Lunas, Bosque Farms, Isleta and Albuquerque, the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office, University of New Mexico campus police, Los Lunas Schools police and New Mexico State Police.
Brian Baca, the deputy superintendent for LLS who oversees the safety security department, said the goal is to continue to have trainings like this because it not only helps broaden and better their skills, but it also helps to foster relationships and increase communication between agencies.
“We have trainings at our schools with community partners pretty regularly as part of what we do to keep our students and community safe,” Baca said.
Baca’s team meet monthly with law enforcement and first responder agencies from all across the county in a group called Protecting and Preserving the Future.
“We meet to share information and ideas and talk about training opportunities,” Baca said. “We’re using the schools as a catalyst to bring all these agencies together because we want our kids to feel safe. We want parents to feel when they drop off their kids in the morning that we have done what we need to do to keep them safe.”
Baca said the group formed in 2016 after numerous threats to campuses.
“It started with a small group of us talking about how we can have more police and fire department visibility on campus,” Baca said. “Most recently, the FBI also became a part of our group and has offered their support not only for training, but to help us with our security needs.
“We want to make our schools a place where law enforcement feels welcome. In Los Lunas Schools, we say we want our kids to run towards our police, not away from them,” Baca continued. “They are a part of our school family.”
Baca said LLS has also been active in applying for school safety grants. Many of the initial grants went toward physical security such as cameras, fencing and entryway security and radio upgrades to better communicate with local agencies.
“We monitor their frequencies so we know if something is going on in the community that we need to know about,” Baca said. “Millions of dollars has been put into school security and I think that’s money well spent.”
LLS has an anonymous reporting system called the STOPit app that parents and students can use to report threats or concerns.
“(The STOPit app) can be downloaded on cell phones or school owned devices. It is 100 percent anonymous and you can report as much detail as you can,” he said.
Baca said LLS has also increased the number of school resource officers and ensures that there is one on each campus.
“We have 19 officers and 15 campuses. The kids take comfort in seeing a school resource officer there,” Baca said. “However, school safety isn’t just about SROs or administrators, it’s about the parents, staff and students as well because the best defense we can have is each other. We need to hold each other accountable and make sure we communicate.”
Baca encourages parents, students and staff to report concerns immediately.
“No matter how small (of a concern). In many cases, there were warning signs. Things that maybe were dismissed. We will handle the situations confidentially and expeditiously,” he said.
Baca encourages notifying a school administrator or SRO first. Though, if they don’t feel comfortable reporting to a person, that’s when they can use the STOPit app, he said.
“With the relationships we’ve built with our partners and the investments we made to security, I feel that we put our kids first,” Baca said. “We’re continually looking to see how we can improve because every student deserves to be in a school where they’re safe and can focus on learning.”
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.