DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Douglas County Commissioners held a special session meeting Tuesday night to hear school safety recommendations for the $13.3 million re-appropriated following the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting in May. The father of the teenager killed in the shooting was among those to give remarks on the issue.

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John Castillo said “positive changes” to improve the safety of students starts with properly labeling the tragic situations like the shooting that took his son’s life.

“We need to call it what it is – domestic terrorism,” he said. “It’s not a senseless killing. It’s a murder.”

Castillo is nothing short of outraged over the death of his son, 17-year-old Kendrick. Yet the heartbroken father is using his pain to fuel his passion for change.

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“They silenced him, but they brought back my voice,” Castillo told reporters ahead of the meeting in Castle Rock.

With his wife by his side, Castillo used his voice before commissioners, sharing with them how he hopes the changes made in Douglas County serve as an example for other communities.

“We need to make sustainable changes to make our schools safer,” he said.

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Members of law enforcement also updated commissioners on how some of the money is being used to increase the number of school resource officers (SRO) around the district. Mental health experts also shared with commissioners how their programs are working and the recommendations for improved mental health services for students. Yet Castillo said that cannot be the only focus.

“We can’t hide behind it. I support mental health in the right avenue, but it’s also a shield for cowards and evil to hide behind,” he told reporters. “We have to distinguish what it is.”

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Castillo also said things like metal detectors give a false sense of security. He wants to see technology improve, perhaps with an app for kids to instantly alert authorities when there’s trouble at school.

“Just as it did in a RTD incident a few weeks back, someone was able to quickly inform law enforcement to act on a situation,” Castillo explained of a shooing outside the CBS4 studios.

John Castillo (credit: CBS)

Douglas County commissioners said several more meetings will take place before any school security improvement decisions are made. Castillo said it is a step in the right direction, but he hopes all the talk turns into real action so no other parents have to experience his pain.

“We lost our son for the rest of our lives and it’s devastating, but it could be somebody else,” he said. “I’m asking everyone get on board so there doesn’t have to be another one.”

Kelly Werthmann

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