DENVER — An open records request obtained by Chalkbeat revealed Denver Public Schools (DPS) found a record number of weapons on school property last school year.
According to school data, during last school year, 200 weapons, including 13 guns and 28 fake guns, were found on DPS property, which is five times the number of weapons found during the 2018-2019 school year.
Last November, DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero addressed his concerns regarding youth violence during a school board meeting.
“The one thing that has me the most concerned is the violence that’s happening in and around schools,” Marrero said at the time. “I can’t stay silent any longer.”
“I think it matches up to what the kids that come in here tell us,” said Jason McBride, Struggle of Love Foundation secondary violence intervention specialist. “We get a lot of referrals from different agencies, be it courts or other schools or parents. Most of these kids that come in here have gun cases.”
McBride said this problem is much bigger than DPS.
“If you look out here, especially in far north, northeast, they have a gun show, the Tanner Gun Show on 14th and Chambers… maybe we shouldn’t have gun shows in communities that have issues with youth violence, or violence, period,’ he said. “But the violence isn’t just happening in Denver. It's happening in Aurora. You look at Cherry Creek Schools, there are some Cherry Creek Schools, Overland, Smoky Hill, Cherokee Trail that all have had issues with gangs.”
McBride said school administrators, students and parents need to have honest conversations about youth carrying weapons in order to get to the root of the problem.
“I think all these kids are scared, and that's where their focus is. They can't focus on being educated or being taught. They're too scared because there are hundreds of guns on the streets that shouldn't be there,” McBride said.
Dini Hodge, 24, works with McBride at Struggle of Love Foundation and said he relates to many of the students he mentors.
“I went to MLK and there was like a lot of violence going around,” Hodge said.
Hodge said during his time at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College in Denver, fights between groups of students of different races were a regular occurrence.
“There were a lot of riots, like people getting jumped and stuff. And I'm a little guy. So you know, I felt like I needed to protect myself,” he said.
Hodge said he began bringing a weapon to school. He said he came from a good family background with a lot of family support, but that same fear that drove him to bring a weapon to school continues today.
DPS Media Relations Manager Rachel Childress said while the district will not tolerate weapons on school grounds, they’re working to get to the root of the problem.
“We all know that one incident is far too many. Since the pandemic, and since before the pandemic, we've been really trying to make sure that we reiterate certain things. A lot of the times, we see incidents where children are bringing fake guns or, you know, nerf or pellet or even BB guns to school. And those are never appropriate,” Childress said. “The district has made it exceptionally clear through our reiterated stance that we do have disciplinary procedures in place and we take care of the whole child. This isn't just something that we see and we immediately discipline. We want to make sure that we're supporting this kid and whatever they feel is the reason for bringing something like that to a school setting.”