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A look at a Peoria school district's security plan after student brings gun on campus

Posted at 6:30 PM, Aug 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-24 18:13:11-04

PEORIA, AZ — For school districts, the safety playbook for incidents involving weapons always evolves. Typically, administrators and staff are focused on learning the best practices, but sometimes, as Peoria's Centennial High School demonstrated this week, they must execute them.

On Monday, a student brought a handgun on campus. Police say there is no indication he intended to use it. He told school administrators he was carrying the weapon in his backpack after being confronted for smoking marijuana in the bathroom.

"We immediately made sure our school resource officer was there and able to respond to the situation," Peoria Unified School District spokeswoman Danielle Airey said. "He goes through the process that he is trained to go through. We are very fortunate."

In this case, administrators and the school resource officer took possession of the weapon and placed the student under arrest. It was done efficiently, without disruption to the school day. Centennial student Mia Munoz told ABC 15's Zach Crenshaw, "I mean nobody knew about it and it happened at 10 in the morning."

Centennial is one of 42 schools in the Peoria Unified School District and includes 37,000 students--making it the state's 4th-largest school district by enrollment. Keeping everyone safe is a challenge.

"Our emergency response plan is always changing and evolving from the standpoint of reflection and looking at our procedures," Airey said.

In a time when school shootings are all too common, schools in Arizona rely on law enforcement to routinely review safety plans and provide threat assessments. Peoria Union makes sure administrators, teachers and staff receive safety training offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA.

"There's no other place like a local public school where you will find more adults with better training that have gone through drills that are first and foremost to ensure the safety of students," Airey said.

After Monday's incident at Centennial High School, parents seem to agree. Alexis Munoz said she learned about what happened Monday from an email from the school and then going to the Peoria Police Department's Instagram account.

"I wasn't as worried because I know that (school resource) Officer Hernandez is always here and I feel safe with him here," she said.

Keeping schools safe comes at a price. In November, there is bond override election in the Peoria Unified School District. If voters pass it, some of the money will go toward intervention specialists and school counselors.