One month after an Española Valley High School student was tased three times by Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeremy Barnes, the top security official at Española School District was let go from his position.
On June 13, District Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez informed David Lujan, head of security and safety at the District, that his contract was not being renewed and that he would no longer work for the District at the end of the month, a letter she sent to him states.
The letter also states Lujan was not entitled to a hearing on his employment status, nor were any official reasons listed for his dismissal, because it was not a formal termination.
Lujan said in a Monday phone interview that Gutierrez told him his dismissal was because the District needed a head of security with more law enforcement experience.
“I don’t believe that,” he said. “I thought I was doing a great job.”
Lapel footage of the incident shows Barnes calling Lujan minutes after tasing a student with special needs at the High School.
“(Expletive) it, that’s what he gets,” Lujan said, before laughing and asking, “Did he piss himself when he got tased?”
He said he did not know if the tasing incident or his comments captured on lapel footage played a factor in his dismissal.
Gutierrez, meanwhile, has hired Lujan’s replacement, former police officer and current District security guard Donald Lopez.
Lopez is a retired police officer and worked as a security guard for the District this past school year. Lujan said he oversaw Lopez as a security guard and is optimistic about his tenure as head of safety and security.
“He’s a great guy, he will do good,” he said.
An update on the Office of Safety and Security will be made at the next Española School Board meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (7/17) in the District Board Room.
The meeting will be focused on school safety.
This includes a presentation by Chief Deputy Attorney General Tania Maestas, which will mark the beginning of a collaboration between the District and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.
Board President Ruben Archuleta said he invited Attorney General Hector Balderas to speak at their meeting to address student safety issues in the District.
He said he and Board Vice President Yolanda Salazar discussed the tasing incident in phone calls with Balderas.
“We had a conversation with (Balderas) on the phone,” Archuleta said. “He wasn’t scolding the District, he’s wondering how we learn from this and avoid it in the future.”
He said Balderas was originally supposed to attend, but had to cancel due to a prior engagement.
The Office will be providing training to District employees on how to properly deescalate situations with students, Archuleta said.
Both parties agreed the presentation is a necessary step.
“It’s the beginning of a discussion to kind of give them some background on some of the safety issues the Attorney General has been working on for the last couple of years,” Matt Baca, spokesperson for the Attorney General, said in a phone interview.
The meeting agenda also includes proposed updates to the District’s safety policy, specifically student interrogations and arrests. The agenda and meeting packet do not contain any information specifying what the proposed changes are.
The District is still in the process of deciding which police department it wants present on its campuses as student resource officers, if any at all. While the District had previously worked with the Sheriff’s Office, it is unclear who they will select for the upcoming school year. Archuleta said an official decision on the matter should be made by the Board’s meeting in August.