Steamboat Springs Until Monday, Santee, Calif., was a place that many residents thought was immune to school violence. A lot like Steamboat Springs.
But Santee's assumption was shattered by the sound of gunfire when a 15-year-old boy allegedly opened fire in Santana High School, killing two people and injuring 13 others.
Students and administrators at Steamboat High said Tuesday that they still don't think their school is the type of place where a shooting could occur. But they also know they could be proven wrong in an instant.
"Every day," Principal David Schmid answered when asked if he ever thinks about the prospect of violence at his school. "Our responsibility is keeping our kids safe and you don't always know what's going on."
Some students at Santana High School told authorities after the shooting Monday that they had heard the gunman threatening to bring a gun to school. At two schools on the Front Range of Colorado in recent months, students did come forward and apparent plots to hurt classmates and teachers were averted.
Steamboat Springs senior Hunter Maddox said he would have to evaluate the situation thoroughly before turning in a friend.
That wasn't an uncommon response.
"It depends on the person," sophomore Avery Swoyer said.
Students in both Santee and Steamboat said the line between joking and threatening can sometimes be difficult to decipher.
Schmid believes activities such as "Challenge Day," at which students are allowed to vent their frustrations, can bring the student body closer. He also has instituted a policy of respect, which basically asks students to treat each other equally despite differences in background or age. He also makes sure students respect their teachers.
Schmid and some of his students all repeated the idea that Steamboat High is a "close-knit" place where students attempt to include each other in activities and social situations. That inclusive atmosphere, they said, is one of their biggest defenses against violence.
Schmid said all students are offered opportunities to talk with counselors at the school or, if there is a conflict, can meet with a trained peer mediator to work it out.
If a student were to make a threatening remark that was reported to the principal, the school would thoroughly investigate the issue before taking any action, Schmid said.
Before homecoming last fall, a bomb threat that read "10-6-00 the high school will blow up" was scrawled in a bathroom stall at a restaurant in town. Police presence was increased at homecoming festivities, but overall, school officials efforts focused on keeping people calm and allowing them to enjoy the evening.
Students caught in a dangerous situation have been taught to go to the nearest "lockdown" area, usually a classroom without windows, Schmid said.
After Columbine, a number of schools decided to work with police and create on office for a resource officer who is an integral part of the school's violence prevention efforts. At Steamboat High, Sgt. Jason Patrick doesn't spend much time in his office in the administration. Instead, he usually out with his fellow Sailors.
"My most important role is developing relationships with kids so that they can trust me and I can trust them," Patrick said.
Patrick said he feels like he knows a large percentage of the students and is able to detect when there's a problem but he admitted that there is always the chance that all the measures the school has taken will fall short.
Columbine, in fact, had a resource officer at the time of the shootings, Patrick said.
"Steamboat has just as much potential as any school anywhere for danger," Patrick said. "We would like to think we're immune."
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