Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes — who tased an Española Valley High School student in the chest three times on May 10 — never completed any of the training required for a school resource officer (SRO) in the Española School District.
The required trainings include child and adolescent development psychology; children with disabilities and other special needs; confidentiality; bully prevention; and cultural competency. All of them are listed in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2018 between the Sheriff’s Office and the District.
The student tased was a special needs student and had an Individualized Education Program, a written agreement that outlines how the needs of a special education student are to be met.
Sheriff’s Office Maj. Randy Sanches said he was not aware if Barnes ever completed any SRO-specific training and that all trainings that Barnes did complete would be in his personnel file.
Barnes’ personnel file contains no certificate for any of the training required in the Memorandum.
District Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez said any future Memorandum with law enforcement needs to include language that requires school resource officers to be trained before being placed on school campuses.
“There’s no specificity to documentation of (training) for the Sheriff’s department,” Gutierrez said.
Sanches said there is no single person in the Sheriff's Office responsible for training, instead, sergeants are responsible for training the deputies beneath them.
The Memorandum with the Sheriff’s Office was one of the primary topics of discussion during a June 6 special meeting of the District’s School Board. The meeting primarily consisted of Board Counsel Geno Zamora explaining to Board members and Gutierrez the various options they had in terms of securing the school.
Absent from the meeting were any representatives from the Sheriff’s Office. Board President Ruben Archuleta said someone from the Sheriff’s Office should have been there.
“I think there’s a lot of people that should’ve probably been here,” he said.
Also not present at the meeting was David Lujan, who is in charge of security at the District. In a June 10 phone interview, he said he had gone on vacation that day, one he had planned about three weeks in advance.
Barnes’ lapel footage shows him calling David Lujan after the tasing occurred and explaining the incident to him.
“(Expletive) it, that’s what he gets,” David Lujan said.
He then chuckled before asking, “Did he piss himself when he got tased?”
He said he regrets what he said, and apologized for it. He then attempted to clarify his question about the student urinating himself.
“As far as him urinating on himself, it’s a scientific fact,” Lujan said. “I did not want him to be more embarrassed if he did. And if he did, I wanted him to be put somewhere private so no one would see him.”
He said he could not remember if he laughed before asking the question. The lapel footage does not show him asking about the student’s privacy.
Lujan also said he “had no idea” if Barnes had received any SRO-specific training.
“I assume I’m getting an officer that has been trained according to the MOU,” he said.
He said he could not comment on if it was an oversight for the District to not check if Barnes had been properly trained.
National Association of Student Resource Officers’ Director of Operations Mac Hardy said training for children with mental health issues can help school resource officers know how to react in certain situations. The Birmingham, Ala.-based organization offers courses for school resource officers around the country on topics such as mental health and mentoring students.
“It’s key that you receive that training,” Hardy said. “It’s not going to make you a psychologist, it’s not going to make you a social worker, but it does give you an understanding of what to expect and maybe how to communicate better with these students.”
Hardy was a teacher before serving as a School Resource Officer for nearly 20 years and said he became better at his job once he received this training.
“I wish back in 1997, I would have received more information on the adolescent brain,” he said. “Even as a teacher, this information we put out would have been beneficial for me to understand why 15-year-olds act the way they do.”
Multiple Board members raised concerns about communication from District administration, namely Board Member Pablo Lujan, no relation.
During the special meeting, Lujan criticized the administration for not notifying the Board of the incident when it first happened, saying they only found out about it through a press release.
“If we ignore that, what the hell are we doing on the Board?” he asked.
After the meeting, Lujan criticized the Gutierrez’ actions following the incident.
“Our superintendent has prioritized to have press releases for hiring approaches and stuff like that,” he said. “Here’s a serious incident — a child could have died — and there’s no communication.”
Gutierrez said she was aware of the incident the day it happened, but did not inform the Board because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a law made to protect the privacy of students.
No public comment was scheduled during the special meeting. Margaret Lopez, a mother of a special needs student in Española, had anticipated asking the Board how a police officer would handle a situation with her daughter.
“They need training on special needs kids,” Lopez said. “You need to look into that IEP before you get into that situation.”
Lopez said she was particularly upset that Barnes was allowed to participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which is done in support of the Special Olympics.
“How dare he run with those kids after what he did to this one kid,” she said.
Archuleta said the Board will hold a meeting on June 25 to continue the conversation on how to make Española schools safer. He said he and other members are considering forming a committee focused on safety.