President Trump's Commission on School Safety conducted a listening session Tuesday in Cheyenne to gather input from the Mountain West region. Educators, officials and students came from states across the region, as far as Albuquerque, to share diverse perspectives before the commission.
A student from Denver said he didn't feel safe at school as a transgender person of color, while a representative from a remote Wyoming school told the commission it takes over 45 minutes for law enforcement to respond to emergencies. Measures from arming staff to making sure all classroom doors can easily be locked by teachers from the inside were discussed.
Special Education Director Mike Harris made the four-hour trek from Lander to tell the commission that even when at-risk students are identified there are few mechanisms to enforce mental health treatment short of a court order. Harris would like to see comprehensive services for kids before they get in trouble.
"What if a public agency could make a referral to a regional or state children's mental health crisis team who could review documentation, ask clarifying questions and compel a particular course of action to address the student's needs? What if the crisis team could compel this course of action in 48 hours or less?" asked Harris. "These actions would benefit the student and possibly save lives."
Harris said supporting students can be hard when parents aren't on board.
Tara Muir, the Director of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, told the commission that schools and communities can, and should, work together to address violence kids are exposed to, whether it's abuse at home or bullying at school.
"Instead of waiting for an active shooter to arrive at school in Wyoming, we suggest the U.S. Department of Education incentivize communities to reduce the risk that a child, a teen, will become so isolated, irritated or ignored that the shooter thinks this kind of violence is a good idea," said Muir.
The listening session in Cheyenne was one of four happening across the country this summer.