East High parents demand transparent security plan ahead of students’ return to class
Dubbed the “Parents – Safety Advocacy Group,” many members met while picking up their evacuated kids post-shooting.
A group of parents, students and community members gathered Monday in front of East High, ahead of the school’s return to classes this week.
Dubbed the “Parents – Safety Advocacy Group,” many of the members met for the first time a little less than two weeks ago, after the school shooting that left two East High administrators injured, and the 17-year-old suspect dead following a suicide. The group is now calling for more transparency from district officials about school safety.
“We’ve been given no information from the [Denver Public Schools] board,” Sri Viswanath, an East High parent, said. “We’ve been told nothing about safety improvements at our school except for the return of some school resource officers, nothing from the DPS board. We’ve observed no changes here at our school to make it safer when our kids get back on Wednesday. We have not been informed about any kind of comprehensive safety plan to make Denver Public Schools and East High School safer from the DPS board.”
In a school board meeting the day after the shooting, Denver School Board members met in a closed-off executive session and emerged hours later to announce that up to two armed officers would be allowed at city high schools.
DPS board members have tasked district superintendent Alex Marrero with creating a “systemic Long-term Safety Operational plan,” which is due at the end of June. Armed officers will remain at DPS high schools until then, but it’s not clear how the plan will involve them going forward.
The decision to bring back school resource officers is a reversal of one made in 2020, when DPS board members unanimously voted to order DPD officers out of schools in an attempt to address systemic racism. Vince Jordan, a parent of a current senior at East High, said he wants to know what plans were made in the absence of SROs, in addition to how bringing them back will address other issues within the school.
“There are other issues, like mental health,” Jordan said. “What support are you putting in place for the students and the teachers?”
The late-March shooting was the latest in a string of gun violence incidents that impacted the East community. Just weeks before, 16-year-old Luis Garcia was shot near campus and later died of his injuries.
Members of the Parents – Safety Advocacy Group said everyone is welcome to join their group, even non-parents. Vernon Jones Jr., a pastor in the community, is one of those non-parents. He said he hopes to assist by holding community meetings to encourage discourse.
“When the families here at East reached out to us, we said, ‘Okay, that’s what we do,'” Jones Jr. said. “We help people move out of their silos to work in solidarity to get to the solutions that work best for kids.”
The Parents – Safety Advocacy Group said they’ll continue to gather in front of East High every Monday through the end of the semester.