Documents reveal dispute between sheriff's office, STEM over resource officer contract

Emails, letters shed light on prior contract

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Documents distributed as part of a news release by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office on May 10 show disagreement, and some underlying tension, led to the discontinuation of a contract that provided a school resource officer at STEM School Highlands Ranch.

The school's security was put in the spotlight following a May 7 shooting that left one student dead and eight others wounded. The school contracts with the private security company BOSS High Level Protection, an arrangement that followed the end of STEM's contract with the sheriff's office following the 2017-18 school year. A security guard was on site at the time of the shooting and reportedly helped detain one of the suspects.

In the May 10 news release, Sheriff Tony Spurlock said STEM had not been making the best use of its school resource officer's time and provided 20 pages of documents detailing the relationship between DCSO and the school. A Denver media outlet had made a public records request for the documents.

Within an hour, STEM responded with a news release of its own.

“The unfortunate fact is that schools with and without SROs have experienced violence,” reads a statement from STEM's public relations firm. “With regard to the tragedy on May 7, 2019, we credit both the actions of our private security guard, the team of DCSO law enforcement officials who were on scene within two minutes, and the heroic students and staff members at STEM for minimizing the number of fatalities and casualties.”

STEM partnered with the sheriff's office for a school resource officer from 2013 through early 2018. In the 2017-18 school year, STEM shared an SRO with another Highlands Ranch charter school, SkyView Academy, which is just less than 7 miles away. The officer split his time between the two schools. The sheriff's officer covered half of the cost. The two charters split the other half.

At the end of the year, when the officer became ill and couldn't fulfill his contract, STEM's executive director, Penny Eucker, requested a credit for the months not served, according to emails released by the sheriff's office.

But according to a report from Lt. Lori Bronner, who oversees Douglas County School District's resource officers, the sheriff's office continued to provide services to the school through its SRO and Youth Education and Safety in Schools (Y.E.S.S.) departments while the assigned SRO was on leave.

Eucker also expressed dissatisfaction with the SRO's service, citing his disengagement with students and lack of presence at the school.

“We also request placement of a new SRO for the 2018-19 school year and participation in his or her selection process,” Eucker wrote in an email to the sheriff's office and Bronner on May 18, 2018.

Spurlock agreed to forgo billing STEM for the last four months of the contract but elected not to renew the contract for the following school year. STEM didn't provide an office space for the SRO — a stipulation of the contract — and mainly used the SRO to mitigate traffic, according to a letter from Spurlock to Eucker on June 20, 2018.

“I am sorry that STEM School is dissatisfied with the services we have provided,” Spurlock says in the letter. “It appears we do not share a common understanding of the role our school resource officers play in educating our community's youth and protecting our schools.”

STEM paid $26,925 for an SRO for the 2017-18 school year, the same amount as SkyView Academy, according to a copy of the contract. The sheriff's office covered the remaining $53,850. Spurlock agreed to refund STEM $6,731.50 for the four months the assigned SRO was absent.

After several meetings between officials from STEM and the sheriff's office, Eucker opted to contract with a private security company for the 2018-19 school year and requested a deputy from the sheriff's office for up to three hours a day to assist with traffic.

 

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