Salida School District Superintendent David Blackburn clarified several aspects of the series of events stemming from the lockdown incident Sept. 23 at Salida High School.
The school was under lockdown conditions for a total of about 20 minutes, Blackburn said.
There was some confusion as to who was in charge of calling and ending the lockdown in response to a possible armed threat.
The series of events involved a youth who had threatened self harm and indicated he had access to a firearm, which eventually resulted in the Sept. 27 arrest of SHS Principal Talmage Trujillo on misdemeanor charges of obstruction of a peace officer, harboring a minor, official misconduct and obstruction of government operations.
Blackburn said he made the decision to put Trujillo on paid administrative leave following the incident and arrest.
He said the placement was not made because of any knowledge of any crime; rather it was considered the wisest course of action until more information could be gathered and to give Trujillo a chance to respond to the police and district attorney.
At Tuesday’s Salida school board executive session, Blackburn said the board recommended Trujillo be taken off administrative leave and allowed to return to his job, and Blackburn took that action.
Trujillo is now back at work as SHS principal.
As yet the board has taken no formal action in the case of Trujillo or Blackburn, including disciplinary actions.
Written accounts were asked of staff members present during the Sept. 23 events and were received from that time until Tuesday’s closed board meeting.
During the meeting, SHS front office staff were asked to clarify their statements.
Principals from other Salida schools were also invited to the meeting to provide the board with their insights as building administrators.
The school board reviewed school security camera footage at the meeting. The footage is visual only and has no sound.
Following the executive session, a district press release stated the board found discrepancies between what they heard from staff and saw on the video, and the affidavit submitted by Officer C.J. Meseke.
Blackburn said the district is currently trying to understand how that footage may be shared with the media and the public in light of the district attorney’s case against Trujillo.
As yet, the district attorney’s office has not responded to a query as to when that footage and/or police body camera and other information might be available to the public.
He declined to offer an opinion on the accuracy of the affidavit.
Blackburn said he did not tell firefighters at the scene that he hated the police, which was alleged in the affidavit.
“I do not hate cops,” he said.
Blackburn admitted he told the police to leave the property, but he said he does not know if he used a profanity while doing so.
Twice, in the affidavit and in an associated statement, Blackburn’s attire Sept. 23 is mentioned as jeans, a black hoodie, a hat and a face mask.
Blackburn said he wore the face mask due to COVID-19. The rest of his attire was not unusual for a Thursday, the last day of the school week in Salida schools.
He wore jeans and district gear, including a black Horizons Exploratory Academy hoodie. He said he did not have the hood up at the time he went to SHS that day.
When asked what message the incident sends students, Blackburn said the question was too vague to answer because there are multiple layers to be discussed.
He said the events of Sept. 23 and the subsequent arrest of Trujillo have been “very traumatic” for several students and staff members.
Blackburn said they are trying to design ways to facilitate conversation around the events with students and staff, but right now they are limited by the legal proceedings.
As far as who was in charge of the situation at SHS Sept. 23, Blackburn said in the case of a lockdown event, according to standard training by National Incident Management System provided by Federal Emergency Management Administration and legal statutes, the administrator is in charge of the building until released.
Blackburn declined to comment on Meseke’s conduct during the incident.
The district press release following the closed meeting suggested that the district would seek mediation with Salida Police Department through a neutral party.
Blackburn said the board of education wants to ensure the relationship between the schools and the police is as strong as it can be.
He said the district wants a chance to debrief and learn from mistakes so “we can do better next time.”
Blackburn said, “I am confident both police and schools can work more seamlessly together as we’ve done for many years.”